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Life (X) 3
By Elyse Sommer
It is indeed just a matter of time before the sarcastic Hubert challenges his host to admit that something has gone wrong with the evening. As Sonia and Henry's unseen but often heard six-year-old is sure to get the best of his frazzled parents, so this dinner party is as doomed to turn into rambunctious confrontations and to dash Henry's hopes for revitalizing his floundering career as a scientist with a ground-breaking publication.
With her favorite director, Matthew Warchus, and translator, Christopher Hampton, once again on board, Live (X) 3 bears the hallmarks we've come to expect of a Reza play -- elegant staging and dialogue as sharp in English as in the original French. As the perception of an expensive modern painting that contains no images stirred up more questions about friendship than paintings in Art so Reza has here given her modern drawing room comedy a stylishly scientific spin. With a bow to Michael Frayn's much more substantial Copenhagen, the playwright has applied her own ever so loose view of the chaos theory to tell the same story three times. Each telling provides a slight twist on the characters, their inner and interpersonal conflicts, and the details of the party -- each with a different ending.
The episodes have enough laughs so that you might not realize until midway through the second and best of the intermissionless scenes that the characters, unlike those in Art and Unexpected Man lack likeability and essentially serve as cardboard props for the thrice-told tale gimmick. In short, the play is as insubstantial as the food being served.
Except for Linda Emond none of the actors are very convincing as Parisians. John Turturro's intensely needy and full of spit (literally) Henry is energetic but a far cry from the more soft-spoken, understated take on the part by Mark Rylance admired by Lizzie Loveridge in the London production. Sonia who ranges from bitchy to supportive, depending on which of the three versions of the story you think really took place, is played by Helen Hunt. She looks wonderful, whether in a bathrobe or a slinky black pants outfit, but she brings more petulance than emotional shading to her role.
While Emond's Inez has the last word on that run in her hosiery with "I'm quite happy to go on wearing something that is ruining my husband's evening", it's Hubert who sums up Ms. Reza's attempt to justify and give meaning to the trivialness of Life (X) 3: "I was thinking about the relative importance of things -- about what's interesting and what isn't. Apparently, empty moments stay incised in the memory, trivial words can engage your whole being." That remark during the middle scene begs the question of whether this dinner party is really worth incising itself into our memory via it's three-fold repetition. Given the difficult times we live in, I'd opt for for less intellectualizing and the really empty but delicious humor of another British import, The Play What I Wrote.
Links to Reviews of Other Plays by Yasmina Reza
Art London . . .Broadway
Conversations After a Burial
Unexpected Man London & Off-Broadway and Los Angeles
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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