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A CurtainUp Review
7th Monarch

Y"es, all information is obscure, until it become pertinent by fitting into the right box, and then I understand the pattern, and it pulls apart and flies back to infinity until needed again."— Miriam
7th Monarch
Leslie Hendrix and Michael Rupert in 7th Monarch
(Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)
Although Jim Henryís psychological drama, 7th Monarch is being presented as a new play, this is not exactly true. The play has been produced around the country for several years, including a stint at Missouri Valley College (2011), where four alternative endings were developed, and a production in Los Angeles (2003), when it was reviewed by Laura Hitchcock for CurtainUp.(the review)

During those years the play was called The Seventh Monarch, and according to the reviews, it doesnít seem to have changed much. The play is about a 33-year-old mathematical genius named Miriam, whose life has been uncannily synchronized with the space program.

As the play opens, Miriam is arrested for illegally cashing her parentsí social security checks. When it becomes apparent that Miriamís parents have disappeared under mysterious circumstances, the young lady is in even more trouble.

The current production, directed by Scott C. Embler, stars Gretchen Hall as Miriam Hemmerick. Hall gives a believable and moving performance as an extremely troubled (perhaps psychotic) mathematical genius haunted by horrific memories. Hall certainly knows how to balance her characterís hysteria with a very real concern Miriam shows for others in her life.

Those other people are principally Miriamís attorney, the public defender Grey Collins (Matthew Humphreys), and Raina Briar (Leslie Hendrix), the federal investigator who ends up becoming her best friend. Miriam, who, in addition to her mathematical talents, has a photographic memory and an uncanny ability to see into the hearts of others, intuits Raina and Barnesís weaknesses and troubled pasts, especially Rainaís, which proves to be almost as traumatic as Miriamís.

Add to the mix Detective Leo Garnes (Michael Cullen) who has recently lost his beloved wife, and Kenneth Sharpe (Michael Rupert)the ambitious and not entirely ethical district prosecutor, and 7th Monarch becomes a gripping and suspenseful drama filled with interesting and very human people. But despite the excellent acting and capable direction, troublesome plotting keeps undermining the play.

In the first place, it seems unlikely that the state would not have put Miriam under psychiatric care and even less likely that Miriam would be released to live with Raina. The too hasty ending is better left unrevealed for those who want to see the play. Suffice it to say that the mystery is solved in a way that should stretch the credulity of even those most willing to suspend disbelief. Whatís more, Shoko Kambaraís unit set does not adequately serve the various scenes in the play, leading to confusion about who is where after abrupt shifts of time and place.

It is unfortunate that after so many productions, Henry has not been able to solve inconsistencies and imponderables in his play. 7th Monarch makes a moving statement on the power of affection and compassion over intellect. It says that knowledge of numbers and the stars is useless without self-knowledge. And it insists on the ability of humans to heal themselves and others. These are all important lessons, but in this play they stand on shaky footing.

7th Monarch
Written by Jim Henry
Directed by Scott C. Embler
Cast: Gretchen Hall (Miriam Hemmerick), Leslie Hendrix (Raina Briar), Michael Cullen (Leo Garnes, Matthew Humphreys (Grey Collins), Michael Rupert (Kenneth Sharpe)
Set Design: Shoko Kambara
Costume Design: D.W. Withrow
Lighting Design: D.M. Wood
Sound Design: David Pinkard
Stage Manager: Fran Rubenstein
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes, with a ten-minute intermission
Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 West 42 Street 212-239-6200 www.7thMonarch.com
From 6/12/12; opening 6/24/12; closing 9/9/12
Tuesdays at 7 PM, Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM, with matinees Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday at 3 PM
Tickets: $75
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons June 23, 2012
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