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Dex + Julie Sittin in a Tree
Julie has stayed in town and is a tenured English professor. Using her old " in" with Dex, now a well known defense attorney, she has arranged for the college to confer an award on him. He stays at her house during his visit. The promising opening scene has Dex giving orders to his office on his cell while Julie flits about wearing just a man's shirt.
This play is about retribution and maybe about how revenge may not be so sweet even when served cold. Information is leaked so the audience can see things coming and appreciate what a character doesn't yet know. It's a clever enough and often funnyadult drama with its sex talk and age-related problems.
Almost endearingly the hotshot lawyer travels with his private pharmacopia for arthritis, blood pressure, allergies and more. But lengthy and curiously unproductive catching-up chats might as easily apply to chance meetings of any pre-geezers in the audience. The same scant territory is rehashed too long and too often, and the tactics and eventual revelations don't warrant all the fuss.
The award-receiving element is given almost no play. Dex and Julie's recent lives essentially remain a mystery. We learn that he's concerned about "female treachery," and that his life isn't so fabulous. Her life seems pretty pathetic. Both appear uninterested in their work as lawyer and professor. Neither seems particularly nice, but at least that makes for snappy answers. There's only a sketchy sense of the lovers' relationship back when. Finally, the playing field isn't level: one is loaded for bear and the other is a walking target with no ammo. Where's the contest?
Going in, this production had everything it needed to work. . .
Playwright Bruce Graham, who penned Coyote on a Fence, According to Goldman, and many other works, recently won the 2006 "Set in Philadelphia" screenwriting competition. Graham has the craft — he's got plotting down cold and he has a way with repartee. He also knows the Arden audience and he has his ideal director in James J. Christy, who can direct anything Graham throws at him. The production has two very good actors, Jennifer Childs and John Lumia and a design Dream Team. Drum roll please: On set, James Wolk. On lighting, Jerold R. Forsyth. On sound, Jorge Cousineau. On costumes, Janus Stefanowicz. Who could want more??
But the brilliant mix does not produce brilliant results because the play needs both less and more— more dimension and less filler. With the scope of bite-size TV realism, it needs silence, electricity, and loft.
Director Christy, manipulating the dynamics of up close versus separated, keeps the long two-person discussions from becoming somnolent. Complicating his staging decisions is the fact that these long separated characters will have a certain awkwardness. Still, Childs and Lumia must connect as actors. I recall thinking Jennifer Childs is better than this, as is Lumia, who was strong in Killer Joe. Here they need more history to work with. As is, it's a bit like watching Bob Hope and waiting for his punch lines.
There's tremendous talent in the sound, lighting, and set design departments, demonstrated in subtle mood variations and thunder, lightning, and rain effects. Music choices evoke Dex and Julie's old romance. The set is attractive and extremely articulated, from the Frank Lloyd Wright-esque windows to the working microwave. It leaves nothing to the imagination. Nothing. I picture van der Rohe, the old less is more guy, looking at the modern rural cabin represented on stage and wonder what he'd make of it.
Dex + Julie, although clever and carefully structured, is stretched too thin over too little territory. Not quite a tempest, it's a storm in a teapot.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide