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In Enigma Variations, the first plot twist comes
after a good twenty minutes or so of groundwork, and not a moment too
soon. It starts out as the tired old piece with the wise old man
teaching the young whippersnapper a thing or two about life. Thankfully,
Enigma Variations twists on its plot twists, turns on its turning
points and becomes a wonderful pretzel of a play. What starts out as a
matching of wits and a conflict of egos becomes a much more complicated
mess of relationships and emotions.
Set in a house within a broad and expansive seascape, the story at times
is burdened by the heavy words of the author, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt.
When the writing does get down to the heart and soul of the matter, it
hits a groove. Dealing with issues of love and lust, honesty and truth,
the play exudes appreciation of good things that
have passed and hope for the future.
The play evolves in one room and without intermission. The director, Daniel
Roussel, has done an adequate job of creating a steady sense of movement
within the play. While the pacing is
a bit methodical, it never gets boring.
Donald Sutherland plays Abel Znorko, a feisty Nobel Prize winning author
who lives a solitary life. Znorko has just published a passionate novel of
love letters between a man and a woman. It has generate much interest since it's a departure from his last twenty novels which were of a more dry and
Mr. Sutherland gives a finely crafted performance, as you would expect
from an actor of his caliber. The easygoing manner running throughout
much of his performance sets up some wonderful explorations of the
darker areas of his character's inner turmoil.
Jamey Sheridan plays a small town reporter granted a rare interview with the solitary Znorko. His low key enhances and strengthens the play as a
The set design by Ming Cho Lee is at once simple and
majestic. Pleasing to look at, it has an atmosphere that resonates with
the themes of the play
Lighting designer Robert Wierzel also deserves mention. The shift from the lighter shades of dusk to
the shades prevalent just before nightfall subtly and enhance the overall mood and theme of the play.
Written by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Translated by Roeg Jacob
Directed by Daniel Roussel
With Jamey Sheridan and Donald Sutherland
Set Design: Ming Cho Lee
Lighting Design: Robert Wierzel
Costume Design: Candice Cain
Sound Design: Jon Gottlieb
Music Adaptation and Arrangement: Karl Fredrik Lundeberg
Casting: Stanley Soble, CSA
Production Stage Manager: Mary K. Klinger
Stage Manager: Robin Veith
The Mark Taper Forum
135 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
5/6/99-6/13/99; opened 5/7/99
Reviewed by Jack Holland