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LETTERS TO EDITOR
by Les Gutman
The mind, the old public service announcement used to proclaim, is a terrible thing to waste. In Cincinnati, we watch Susan (Nancy Walsh), a professor giving what is supposed to be a lecture, melt down. Quite impressively, I might add.
Susan is haunted by a trauma (related to her former life in Cincinnati, hence the title) and besieged, in perception at least, by people (three of them in particular) with whom she now has various contact. Nothing is ever that simple in academia, it would seem, so her paranoia, angst and roller-coaster rage is mixed with a heavy dose of existential phenomenology. It asks the rather profound solipsistic question: can anyone feel another's pain?
Don Nigro's language and thought-laden script carries with it a lot of weighty baggage, and it's easy to get lost in the jumble of Susan's mind, as it pours forth in an erratic stream-of-consciousness. Stripped of its quite reasonable framing device, this one person show falls in the category of old-fashioned story-telling, much of it told in "he said/she said" narrative. It's a challenging piece for an actor, and equally or more so for the audience. By paying careful attention, one gets the gist of it without difficulty, but I can't help but wonder if it is not better suited as prose.
This is not to take away from Ms. Walsh's efforts, or John Clancy's direction. The intensity of the piece's opening tirade makes one wonder how its energy will be sustained, but soon enough Walsh's amplitude is given a rest, and the full range of Susan's emotional range is assayed. It's still a bitter pill to swallow, much less digest.
Walsh performs on an essentially bare stage, behind an old fashioned school desk (for which no chair has been provided). Eric Nightengale's lighting follows the playwright's prescription, in which broad light slowly narrows until Susan is left in a single narrow beam, as if she has descended deeper and deeper into a well from which she seems highly unlikely to escape.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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