Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Wharton One-Acts: The Mission of Jane and The Promise"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi


based on “The Mission of Jane” and “Les Metteurs en Scene” by Edith Wharton
adaptations by Dennis Krausnick
directed by Eleanor Holdridge

“The Mission of Jane”

Alice Lethbury … Corinna May
Julian Lethbury … Jason Asprey

“The Promise”

Blanche Lambert … Corinna May
Jean Le Fanois … Jason Asprey
Voice … Diane Prusha

THE WHARTON ONE-ACTS at Shakespeare & Company is pleasant summer fare; a smile-and-teardrop afternoon. Dennis Krausnick has reverently adapted two of Edith Wharton’s society fables for an actor and an actress --- in “The Mission of Jane”, a bored husband and his unfulfilled wife adopt a baby girl only to have her bring them together in an unexpected way; in “The Promise”, two high-stepping Paris matchmakers (he, with his European connections; she, with her nouveau-riche Americans) pull the rug out from under themselves when love comes knocking at their own doors. Of the two, “The Promise” is an out-and-out play --- that is, its story unfolds through conversation whereas Mr. Krausnick inserts monologues into “The Mission of Jane” to cover a time span of close to twenty years --- but “The Mission of Jane” is far more entertaining. For all his reverence, Mr. Krausnick has taken some liberties: he goes one step further than does Ms. Wharton at the close of “The Promise” which makes better sense, but thrice he spoils the twist-ending in “The Mission of Jane” with an offer of port, a whirling embrace and an exit, arm-in-arm. Director Eleanor Holdridge poses her actors nicely in their period costumes but the posing, after awhile, becomes the performance --- there is no hint of the human animal beneath the finery.

Jason Asprey has developed into an appealing light comedian which is most fortunate as he tends to sulk onstage when he takes on drama or villainy and his “Jane” moustache adds a bit of dash to the husband’s pompous reserve. Corrina May, blonde and aristocratically handsome, is properly feathery as the genteel earth-mother and deepens enough for her parasite hearing the ticking of the clock though she needs to powder her shoulders which are far too suntanned for Ms. Wharton’s world. Diane Prusha is given a program credit for supplying an offstage voice; an anonymous little actress who plays the two maids makes her comic points deftly and silently.

The Wharton One-Acts: The Mission of Jane" and "The Promise" (25 June - 4 September)
Spring Lawn Theatre, LENOX, MA
1 (413) 637-3353

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide