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LETTERS TO EDITOR
|A CurtainUp Review
By Macey Levin
Louise, an elderly woman confined to bed because of deteriorating health and a profound loneliness, has decided she wants to die. She asks Hallie, a long time friend, to obtain a book that details procedures and lists the needed supplies to expedite death. Throughout the play Louise speaks with her younger self in the person of actress Alexandra Geis, and observes moments from her short-lived marriage to her beloved Howard who died a year after their wedding. Meanwhile, Hallie, a psychiatrist, attempts to enlist the aid of her friend Elizabeth, a lawyer, to satisfy Louise's request. A contrived complementary sub-plot arises when Elizabeth discovers she has breast cancer.
A pitfall in dramatizing an issue of this nature is the tendency to turn the work into a debate with characters defining and defending their positions resulting in scenes that lack drama. And that is what happens here. Much of the dialogue by Carol Galligan is forensic argumentation about moral and legal issues rather than conversation and, at the other extreme, high melodrama. It is filled with redundant cliches and often predictable. The scenes between Hallie and Elizabeth, in particular, feel mechanical and artificial. Similar conversations between Louise and the other characters are more realistic due primarily to the skill and artistry of Rosemary Prinz as Louise. As she explains her decision, Prinz is feisty and gentle while attempting to ease the burden for Hallie and Young Louise who does not want to die. The actress's strength and believability holds the play together and gives realistic and human value to the issues.
The other performers are restricted by the stock dialogue. Eliza Ventura as Hallie and Brenda Thomas as Elizabeth are the ones saddled with the bulk of the labored dialogue. In the several short scenes in which they talk about their lives and relationships they are looser and more realistic. Thomas, however, has a tendency to strike poses and adopts grimaces to convey her attitudes rather than letting the dialogue, weak as it may be, inform her acting choices.
Geis as Young Louise often shrieks to convey her anger and frustration. Her scenes that occur simply and honestly are more credible but they are too infrequent. Van Zeiler's Howard is stiff and somewhat prissy. How Louise could have fallen in love with him is a mystery. But, then, there is Prinz. Despite a histrionic moment or two, she is a joy to watch even when she is observing the flashbacks of her life.
A director, when breathing life into a play, can work only with what the author gives him. Galligan's problematic script hinders Michael Montel's staging which is sometimes as mechanical as the writing. Entrances and exits occasionally feel awkward; line readings lack substance; relationships are superficial.
Beowulf Boritt's set, using white and soft colors as the basic palette, is clean and utilitarian. The lighting by David E. Segal is also unobtrusive and efficient. If this highly relevant topic had been treated as simply as the technical elements the work would have more power.
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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