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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
By Julia Furay
This dark production is lit by a wonderful cast and intelligent direction from Zetna Fuentes and Michael Imperioli (of The Sopranos). HIV looms large, at least two of the characters have been abused, and another is obsessed with bondage. But, despite its shady overtones, The Given boasts realistic, appealing characters. The first act is quite dynamic and fascinating.
The play's center is Cathea (Laura Heisler), the stripper. Initially she's aloof and even a little prissy, but Heisler doesnt let us miss the world-weary loneliness that makes it easy to believe that shell fall for Seth (Remy Auberjonois), the married man who visits her every week. Auberjonois is equally effective in depicting his shifts from animated talk about his infant daughter to the shamefaced revelation of his darker side. His regular guy appeal makes it easy to see why Cathea falls for him.
Catheas best friends are the charismatic screwup Leon (Anthony De Sando) and Swanee (Jason C. Brown), a straight-arrow with little tolerance for Leon's and Catheas antics. Brown and De Sando are passionate, volatile performers. There's an obvious pent-up energy and frustration just below Brown's surface, while De Sandos persona is appealing enough to understand why Cathea forgives his consistent failures as a friend, as a nurse to her grandmother — as a human being. Sharon Angela as Catheas hilariously drunken co-worker, as well as Elzbleta Czyzewska as her grumpy, senile grandmother, round out the cast, garnering every laugh possible from their lines while managing to touch us.
Volpe's talent for dialogue and characterization make for an interesting and thought-provoking first act, but her writing fails to sustain the second act. As the characters actions become increasingly outlandish they also seem less sensible. One gets a sense that the dark elements have been introduced for the sake of creating an atmosphere rather than because they're organic to the characters' behavior. Maybe this is partially a failure of the directors to inject sufficient undertones into the first act . The essential failure, however is with the script which simply never clarifies the reasons these people are so self-destructive and nasty to each other and ultimately fails to convey their emotional despair.
The Given is boosted by the strong performances and dialogue as well as Victoria Imperioli's clever set which manages to be incredibly detailed and surprisingly versatile. Despite these positive elements, this is, for the most part, a near miss.
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