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LETTERS TO EDITOR
With even the Pulse following Broadway producers by mounting mostly revivals (the current season featured a classic old farce, A Flea In Her Ear an Agatha Christie mystery, Murder on the Nile , and Shakespeare's The Tempest ), the arrival of a newly minted play to run as long as people will come, is indeed something to cheer about. What's more, it's a serious drama posing the sort of questions that should leave audiences with much to think about.
If I seem to be meandering before getting to specifics it's because much as I'd like to tell you that here's a must-see with a well-defined theme convincingly explored, this isn't the case. Alexandra's Web is very decently staged and well structured. Several monologues and flashbacks are smoothly integrated into the main events. These events are, however, riddled with contrivances.
The situation unfolds in the apartment of the young man (John Armour played by Ezra Nanes with charm and sincerity). He is the former lover of the title character (Heather Berman) and the son of the man who raped her when she was sixteen (David Winton). Since John just happens to be an editor at a book publishing house Alexandra asks him, supposedly for old times' sake, to publish the book she's written. The book is an exposé of her affairs with eleven colleagues at the college where she was just fired. Clearly there are plenty of knots in the web spun from the core situation, the long-ranging effects of the rape of a teen-aged girl by a respected older man. Too bad these knots are not untangled more convincingly.
Despite good performances by the three key characters, if not the fourth, Alexandra's motives and method for righting the injustice done to her are murky and the plot details full of holes. Having spent more than twenty years in the book publishing business I could spend several paragraphs pointing out what's wrong with that aspect of the play, but the major flaws are motivational. John keeps asking Alexandra "Why are you doing this"? Why indeed!
As the situation heats up, Alexandra's Web becomes a sprawl of issues -- Calvin Armour may well be a despicable person who used his age and power to cover up a grave misdeed, but the deepest wounds inflicted on Alexandra are by her parents. Her never seen mother, whose religious bent smacks vaguely of zealotry and, most of all, her self-absorbed, distant father who undoubtedly is the root cause for Alexandra's disastrous relationships with men. The affair with John while he was her student (a variation of the teacher-student sexual intimacy) does come alive during one scene when bitter memories temporarily give way to their dancing together but for the most part, it too is laced with multiple issues. The rape may have been the causative factor for Alexandra's hasty bad marriage, her over possessiveness with John, her affairs with married professors and her improbable vengeance scheme -- but given the mother-father-daughter dynamic and its the Rashomon-like replay, that event was one blow of many to an already damaged psyche.
To weave the strands of Alexandra's web together, Mr. Silver, gives her yet another reason to come to New York. It seems her father, who died of a stroke (after Alexandra confrontrf him ten years after the fact with what his colleague did to her), left instructions in his will to be reburied every three years. Alexandra's graveside talks with her dead father turn out to be easier to take than the one flashback in which Bill Barnett, who's totally lost in the role, appears on stage as the still alive Alex Stanz (the linked names throwing out a hint of dad's disappointment that Alexandra wasn't a son). Once you've met Alex, especially as woodenly played by Barnett, it becomes impossible to believe that he'd have the wisdom and imagination to dream up the means for his daughter's salvation through a legal codicil that seems inspired by the old Chinese proverb: Before you seek revenge, dig two graves. Even after Alexandra grasps dad's message from the great beyond, one can only hope that she makes a long overdue visit to a capable therapist.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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