The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp






NEWS (Etcetera)


DC (Washington)
Los Angeles




Free Updates
Type too small?
NYC Weather

A CurtainUp LA Review

by Stanley H. Nemeth

Currently in its world premiere at South Coast Repertory's Second Stage is British playwright Lucinda Coxon’s Nostalgia, a darkly-lit, largely mournful, quasi-poetic mood play. Its story involves the searching in Wales of the elderly Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for communication, through spiritualism, with his late son, a victim of the First World War . Doyle's quest brings him briefly in touch with two feuding rustic brothers, the elder of whom, Will, claims to have encountered the dead son during a seance.

Coxon presents us with two separate narrative strands, Doyle's search and the enmity between the brothers, Will and Tom. Unfortunately, her talents, at least in this work, are not architectural ones. Thus, the two stories are not tied together for the stage in any significant way. No powerful emotions are produced through their juxtaposition, nor does anything particularly meaningful emerge from Doyle’s encounter with these specific brothers.

What unity Coxon seeks is apparently more verbal than dramatic. Her title word emphasizes the universal human desire for what has been lost or cannot be possessed, and it might be argued that the stories of Doyle and the brothers are both representative of such desire. But then it could also be argued with as little cogency that apples and oranges deserve to be compared, despite usual practice, because both after all are fruits. In either case, further, more specific connections are dubious at best, and the viewer still senses he's getting , as in the poorer Elizabethan plays, simply two unconnected stories for the price of one.

What Coxon has produced is less a fully crafted stage play than a sort of lyric poem for voices. Even though she has four characters and a stage set of sorts, she inclines toward lengthy, often arty sounding monologues or two character exchanges, these last without any memorable interruptions or complications introduced by a third or fourth character. Such choices, underscored by the mostly dark lighting , the minimalist, abstract set , and the often static posturing of the actors suggest on Coxon's part some such quasi-poetical rather than dramatic intent.

Given such restrictions, the actors do their best, and all deserve praise for their effective speaking voices. They include the outstanding Larry Drake as Doyle (of whom more later), Michael James Reed as Will, Daniel Blinkoff as Tom, and Susannah Schulman as Buddug, the town pariah' daughter and a source of contention between Will and Tom.

In fairness to the author , it should be pointed out that there is one portion of this work which does reveal her pronounced dramatic flair. It is her talent for irony and the comic. She allows it in one signal instance to fully show through, even though it is jarringly at odds with the general atmosphere which ranges from the unhappy to the sorely beset.

Doyle, dressed in an extra-extra-large nightshirt, delivers a monologue of a dream in which he saw himself as sort of Russian doll, ever dressed in a new, smaller-sized layer of clothes as he peeled off his outer garments but was unable to connect with any core of his being . This memorable riff, reminiscent of Ibsen's Peer Gynt peeling the onion and discovering only emptiness at its core, is an undeniably witty look at postmodern man's dilemma. Moreover, it allows the gifted actor Larry Drake the most inspired moments of the evening. Nostalgia is worth seeing if only for his comic acting here and for the astonishing monologue Coxon has written for him. I suspect if Lucinda Coxon chose to give her flair for comedy fuller rein, she would produce some ebullient, remarkable pieces for the theater.

Written by Lucinda Coxon
Directed by Juliette Carrillo
Cast: Doyle (Larry Drake), Will (Michael James Reed), Tom (Daniel Blinkoff), Bu
Scenic Design:Myunghee Cho
Sound Design:Christopher Webb
Costume Design:Alex Jaeger
Lighting Design:John Martin
Running Time: Two hours, including one ten-minute intermission
At: South Coast Repertory Theater, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 92628-2197/
From: October 30 through December 2, 2001. Opening November 2, 2001
Reviewed by Stanley H. Nemeth based on November 4, 2001 performance.
Metaphors Dictionary Cover
6,500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2001, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from