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A CurtainUp Review
A Cable from Gibraltar
A Cable from Gibraltar is about two couples. One couple morphs from especially precocious newborns in their hospital bassinets to aristocrats who meet on a fishing dock, to generals on opposite sides of an unspecified war. The other couple, only roughly sketched, is a waiter and waitress who in the last scene, at the battlefield checkpoint, are named Alsace and Lorraine. The latter couple is mostly distinguished by their annoyingly stagey French accents.
The first scene, although predictable, does have some charm. The female, or F child (Jeannine Taylor), is clever and coy. The male, or M child (Roger Clark), is awkward, naïve and blustery. His greatest achievement is discovering his pipe, which he immediately wants to display to his attractive neighbor. She is not impressed until the pipe misbehaves is surprising ways.
In the next scene an elegantly dressed man and woman are discovered fishing off a dock. After a bit of clever banter, they retreat to a café for dinner but are forced to part when the young lady receives an urgent message calling her to Gibraltar. The woman is again clever and coy. The man is once more awkward, naïe and blustery. He has the feeling they've met somewhere before. In this scene the waiter (David Csizmadia) and waitress (Deborah Radloff) first make their appearance, but they don't do much besides establish their Frenchness.
The final scene finds the main couple old and gray, dressed in British military clothing and bedecked with medals. They sit in wheelchairs that are rolled on and off the stage much like the bassinets in the first scene. They argue politely over tea and biscuits, while their French waiter and waitress argue passionately about their broken love affair.
Throughout their scenes Clark and Taylor try valiantly to give depth to their clearly representative characters. They succeed in giving them a curious façade of vibrancy that might support a one-act but falls far short of supporting a two-and-a half hour play.
For all the scenes, Carl Tallent provides whimsical sets that perfectly suit the tongue-in-cheek mood of the play. Kalfin shows a steady hand in keeping the gestures small and the tone nuanced, except for the waiter and waitress, who se sole function may be to supply passion that contrasts with the other couple's sang-froid. He describes A Cable from Gibraltar as "a marriage between Coward and Shaw, officiated by Ionesco, and witnessed by Wilder". Indeed one can recognize in this play some of Coward's wit, Shaw's biting comments on society and status, Ionesco's absurdity and Wilder's search for meaning in a chaotic world. But A Cable From Gibraltar demonstrates an unfortunate truth: it's much easier to imitate great writing than to be a great writer.