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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review

"There's more to life than just feeling things. I know that sounds like bullshit. But it's true. At least, it's a little true. At least for you, for now, I mean, it's good to feel things. We all need to feel things. We just gotta find the balance. Know when to hold things in, when to let them show. It's hard." — Lydia

Meera Mohan, Alexander Elisa(Photo: Mathias Goldstein)
To the twenty-something, good-looking and shirtless Boston-based Tony (Jarid Faubel), the scent of exotic blossoms is as real and potent as is the warming touch of the skin of the faceless Love Goddess with whom he is chatting on the internet. And with whom he has been carrying on a delectably torrid hyper-cyber-ized love affair.

Tony rightly begins to suspect that although this playfully inclined seductress (who calls him her Love Tiger) is in India, he firmly believes it is finally the time to make an in-the-flesh connection. With the help of his best friend (Alexander Elisa) an African-American who is in the midst of a problematic long-standing live-in relationship with the anti-marriage Lydia (Zenzelé Cooper), Tony is introduced to Latin-American teenager Francisco (Anthony Cotto) who makes money infiltrating and hacking web sites. Engaging Francisco to locate this Love Goddess begins a charming and disarming roundelay of relationships that clearly has its roots in Arthur Schnitzler's 19th sex-capade La Ronde.

Roundelay is specifically rooted in the racial, cultural and ethnic diversity that weaves through contemporary society, especially in America. It takes a more ebullient and humorous approach to finding rather than forgetting a sexual partner as conceived in Schnitzler's more class-conscious comedy. Sandberg, who teaches playwriting, acting and dramatic literature at Princeton and whose plays have been seen throughout the U.S. and in many other countries, has written one of the most entertaining comedies I have seen this entire season.

Although we are treated to a great deal of globe-trotting from Boston to India, to a Caribbean beach, to the Kenyan coast in this spirited romp, it is the deliciously convoluted interplay of its ten characters that is the source of our delight. Filled with humor and wit Roundelay also pulls off the most difficult trick of all — a dramatic surprise and a resolution that will make you believe in destiny. For this we have to thank Sandberg's keenly nuanced ear for ethnicity and for the ingratiating eccentricities that define all the characters, with four of the actors doubling in their roles.

Winningly embraced within Sandberg's dramatic maze is Priya (the very beautiful Meera Mohan), a well-to-do Indian woman in her twenties. She who dreams of following her heart even if it means saying no to the marriage proposal made by the earnest and impassioned Dr. Kupta (Elisa who also plays Fen) with whom she works in a medical clinic. She is so determined to run off, leave her home, her work and her suitor and work and go as far away as she can in search of love that she leaves a closet full of saris which delights her brother Rajiv (also played by Cotto).

Is it fate or a coincidence that Priya finds herself at a magical spot in Kenya where one goes in the hope of receiving "God's breath." There she meets the recently married Lesbian couple — the nervous Surayya (also played by Cooper) and her comically exuberant white partner Sonya (Kate Brennan) — who have come back to Kenya to seek the blessing of the family that Surayya hasn't seen in many years.

Meanwhile Francisco's sister Pilar (played by Brennan), a frustrated business woman, who has a crush on Fen but just can't bring herself to say what's in her heart, follows him to a beach in the Caribbean where he has retreated after Lydia has refused to marry him. Of course, that leaves Lydia alone just long enough for Francisco, the motor-mouthed, hot-shot techie teenager to make his romantic but also very funny move on her.

One of the most pleasurable aspects of the play is the feeling that there are more characters and actors involved than is actually the case. This is a result of a harmonious ensemble that has been able to create completely distinct personas and appearances with lightning quick changes and much humor

Director Adam Immerwahr who has craftily connected the play's episodic links as a revue with each segment smoothly segueing into the next. This leads to a resolution that will make you smile at the possibility of magic as a mediator, as much as it does at the marvel of an internet connection as a provider.

Jeffrey Van Velsor's impressive ultra modernist setting beautifully bathed in the lighting designed by Paul Kilsdonk and is all these characters need to get from place to place as they set out to seek and fulfill their heart's desire.

R. N. Sandberg
Directed by Adam Immerwahr

Cast: Kate Brennan (Pilar/Sonya), Zenzelé Cooper (Surayya/Lydia), Anthony Cotto (Rajiv/Francisco), Alexander Elisa (Fen/Gupta), Jarid Faubel (Tony), Meera Mohan (Priya).
Set Design and Props: Jeffrey Van Velsor
Costume Designer: Robin I. Shane
Lighting Designer: Paul Kilsdonk
Sound Designer: Karin Graybash
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission
Passage Theater in the historic Mill Hill Playhouse, 205 Front Street, Trenton, NJ (609) 392-0766.
Tickets: $28.00 ($33.00 on Saturday evening)
Performances: Thursday - Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.
From 03/21/13 Opened 03/23/13 Ends 04/07/13
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 03/23/13
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