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A CurtainUp Review
Dutch Heart Of Man
By Elyse Sommer
Besides yearning for the loving relationship that has eluded him, he also wishes for more kindness among strangers. But if Dutch seems something of an anomaly of our always in a hurry society, the combination of his simple-minded goodness and the enormous physical strength from years of hard physical labor also signal a potential for violence.
In teaming up the somewhat saintly Dutch with a more sexually aggressive but equally emotionally stunted bachelor and co-worker, Marty (played to the hilt of obnoxious braggadocio by David Deblinger), playwright Robert Glaudini has given us a buddy story that's doomed to move from comic to hellish. Both these men, the womanizing of one notwithstanding, will bring to mind Paddy Chayefsky's butcher (which may well account for Glaudini's use of the name Marty). Given the rather overly melodramatic climax, there's also an easily perceived link to the character of Lenny in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.
Glaudini's dialogue and cast of characters certainly fit into the gritty, working class sensibility that has become a hallmark for the LAByrinth company and made its plays eagerly anticipated by theater goers tuned in to things edgy. Charles Goforth directs with good pacing and so that the multiple role playing is smooth and non- distracting. However, neither he or the excellent cast can do much about some essential weaknesses in the script that keep it from being as totally on target as such LAByrinth hits a Our Lady of 121st Street and Jesus Hopped the A Train.
Dutch's frequent soliloquies are too self-consciously poetic. They also seem counter to the super-realistic set (Narelle Sissons' has turned the Shiva Theater so completely into a plastic draped construction site that one almost turns back at the door thinking one has mistakenly entered a space that's being renovated) and the in your face dialogue (Deblinger's monologue on anal sex is the verbal equivalent of full frontal nudity). As troublesome, Dutch's shift from endearingly innocent romanticism to tragic volatility is less than convincing, a flaw that is probably attributable in equal parts to Glaudini, Goforth and Inzerillo. This excellence in interpreting one aspect of a character, but not quite succeeding in another also applies to Maggie Bofill's Florence (the woman of Dutch's dreams). She's terrific in her getting acquainted with Dutch scenes and in those with her demanding mother (Maggie Burke, amusingly portraying this mom as well as Marty's Italian Momma), but she's less on the mark in conveying the self-destructiveness that makes her responsive to Marty's coming on to her.
The authenticity of the set is quite amazing, and it cleverly doubles as the Sunoco station where Florence works, her apartment and a nightclub. That said, it is almost too overwhelming and fussy in its realism bringing me to my main quarrel with the play as a whole. Its marriage of poignancy and comedy with large scale tragedy, while not without enough strengths to make it worth watching, falls short of being a perfect match.
Before you leave the Public Theater, which this season is home to the LAByrinthTheatre Company, look at the floor. It's terrazzo.
LINKS TO OTHER LABRYNTH PLAYS REVIEWED AT CurtainUp
Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train
Our Lady of 121st Street
Where's My Money?
Trail Of Her Inner Thigh
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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