Writing for CurtainUp
|A CurtainUp Review
Betwixt by Elyse Sommer
David Cale and Cara Seymour have teamed up to interpret Cale's assemblage of loosely connected monologues, Betwixt. Both have given outstanding performances in past New Group productions (see links below) and their virtuosic acting is once again evident, both in their solos and duets. Mr. Cale proves himself a better than average singer as well as actor and writer.
All but one of the ten English born characters we meet are expatriates who, like the author-performer, carry an emotional backpack of betwixt and between feelings which extend to what they're doing as well as where they're doing it. A man whose conventional marriage has ended in divorce is conflicted about his sexual identity. He explains that even within the environment of the ballet company he manages every time he attempts to be openly gay "a little straight person comes out in me." As much as these characters adapt to American mores (e.g. a man who becomes a soap opera star following the success motto, "I'm here. Give it to me."), there's this in between or outsider feeling that dogs many who leave one world for another.
The strengths of this ninety-minute intermissionless performance piece notwithstanding, by the end I too felt somewhat betwixt and between. On the one hand I was impressed by the finely detailed script, brought to life with expressive delivery by Cale and Seymour and staged with appropriate spareness by directors Scott Elliott and Andy Goldberg. On the other hand, I felt the overriding connecting theme of the expatriate's sense of alienation didn't quite work in creating a sense of smooth integration from piece to piece. In short, the problems of the characters trickled down to the play itself. The longest duet, which introduces us to Seymour and Cale as teenagers, is a fully developed playlet and not just a monologue but it emphasized my betwixt and between feeling about the more uneven and less integrated solos. In the same vein, while Jonathan Kreisberg's music adds enormously to one's enjoyment, his presence as a performer at the side of the stage underscores the overall performance's betwixtness -- a play, but not quite; a concert, but not really.
Even though the whole play doesn't measure up to its best parts, those best parts make the whole worth seeing-- e.g. Ms. Seymour's satiric portrayal of the American success story of Hailey whose $5 a minute "PBS of phone sex" service specializes in British nannies and the likes of Margaret Thatcher. . .Cale, as a 17-year-old drolly measuring time as "35 years spent sleeping, 5 years going to the bathroom and 8950 minutes blinking your eyes."
Hopefully, Ms. Seymour and Mr. Cale will be reunited in many more plays and that Cale and Kreisberg will team up for a "regular" concert.
LINKS TO PLAYS MENTIONED
Two plays in which Cale played outstanding supporting parts:
The Fastest Clock in the Universe
My Night With Reg
Goose-Pimples in which Ms. Seymour was a priceless ditzy blonde