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The Necklace

By Julia Furay

A room where time is doubled over
Past and future, both at home
--- John

Serial dramas are not something likely to be seen on stage. Unless you head for the Ohio Theater in SoHo where The Talking Band's new eight-part serial drama The Necklace is playing -- with each episode a self-contained theater piece and four different playwrights contributing. Judging from the first two episodes that I saw you can expect to be continually surprised and not just because it leaves you wondering whodunit.

Sure, the show is comprised of the usual suspects: A musty old mansion, complete with secret passageways and hidden rooms. A devoted old butler with a secret. A windy moor. Mysterious strangers. Ghosts.Hard-bitten detectives. And, of course, a stolen necklace.

The Necklace plays with all of these conventionional elements -- and adds a few of its own. The result is more an enjoyable exploration of mystery and ghostliness than an attempt to solve anything. (Think Wuthering Heights, not Nancy Drew.)

An air of mystery is evoked even before the lights dim as audience members have to walk through Anna Kiraly's dark, evocative set with its spooky nooks and crannies to get to their seats. They then meet Fanny (Tina Shepard), the old lady who owns the necklace in question, her butler, and Theo, and a young boy she dreams of, who seems to be a ghost (Ian Holloway).

Any expectations for an old-fashioned thriller vanish when the pushy suburban neighbor (Jodi Lin) and a pair of snotty, modern 16-year-olds (Suli Holum and Katie Pearl) make their entrance. The underscoring throughout (composed by Peter Gordon) is another example of the unexpected. It sounds like a score from an old thriller movie but ends up with a most unusual sound.

The large cast adds to the pleasures on offer. Particularly impressive are Shepard (whose Fanny seems to live on memory alone) and David Brooks as Donald, a young orphan constantly meeting strangers and ghosts.

With four different authors the quality and style of each installment is bound to vary a great deal which was indeed the case with the first two segments that I saw. The very funny House Out of Sync by Lisa D'Amour showed off the sure handed directorial talents of Anne Kauffman and Melissa Kievman but it took Paul Zimet's Shadow Passports to make the mysteries and characters more interesting and vivid. Zimet contributes onstage as well as off (he plays the wizened and paranoid butler, John).

Free standing though these plays are, seeing one set of playlets is likely to whet your appetite to tune in some more. With that in mind, the production notes below include the full schedule.

Playwrights: Lisa D'Amour (Episode 1 & 6--House Out of Sync & Insomnia on the Moor), Ellen Maddow (Episode 3 & 7--Inside Outsource & Sticky Fingers) , Lizzie Olesker (Episodes 4 & 5--Amber Bead &Crawl Space), and Paul Zimet ( Episode 2 & 8--Shadow Passports &Bone Room)
Directed by Anne Kaufman and Melissa Kievman
Cast: David Brooks (Donald), Gibson Frazier (Smallek, Joseph/The Mound, Bohiman, Detective Klepowich, Larry King), Ian Holloway (Theo), Suli Holum (Ruby), Derrick Karg (Noah), Jodi Lin (Amber, Donna Monitor), Ellen Maddow (Judith, Foley Artist), Andy Paris (Dudek, Marvin), Katie Pearl (Iris), Tina Shepard (Fanny), Paul Zimet (John)
Set Design: Anna Kiraly
Costume Design: Oliveria Gajic
Lighting Design: Mark Barton
Sound Design: Alex Hawthorn
Choreography: Johanna Meyer
Running time: 90 Minutes with one intermission
Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster Street (Between Spring and Broome in SoHo).
From 5/6/06 to 5/28/06
Tues to Fri @ 8pm, Sat @ 2 and 8pm; Sat and Sun 5:30 pm and 8:30 pm (with special 7pm and 10pm performances on Friday 5/26)
Episodes 1 & 2: 5/6 @ 8pm, 5/11 @ 8pm, 5/13 @ 5:30 pm, 5/14 @ 5:30pm, 5/17 @ 8pm, 5/21 @ 5:30pm and 5/27 @ 5:30pm
Episodes 3 & 4: 5/7 @ 5:30pm, 5/10 @ 8pm, 5/12 @ 8pm, 5/13 @ 8:30pm, 5/16 @ 8pm, 5/21 @ 8:30pm, 5/27 @ 8:30pm
Episodes 5 & 6: 5/18 @ 8pm, 5/20 @ 5:30pm, 5/23 @ 8pm, 5/25 @ 8pm, 5/26 @ 7pm, 5/28 @ 8pm
Episodes 7 & 8: 5/19 @ 8pm, 5/20 @ 8:30pm, 5/24 @ 8pm, 5/26 @ 10pm, 5/28 @ 8:30pm
Tickets: $18 for two episodes (one evening), $30 for four episodes, $48 for all eight episodes
Reviewed Julia Furay based on May 9 performance of Episodes 1 and 2
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