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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
So Long Sleeping Beauty
I have nothing against small cast, quiet plays. But quiet isn't static, and a small cast doesn't mean the actors don't need to generate more chemistry than is on display here. The scrappy little Miniature Theatre is to be commended for presenting new plays as well as more established works. However, the "twist" to this premiere that the advance press release and advertisements hint at fails to materialize as quite the surprise you've been led to expect and its characters never get a firm grip around the heartstrings.
The packet of love letters Glynis (Baibre Dowling) discovers in her husband Morris's bureau drawer after he is killed in an accident, have a touch of the unexpected for about two minutes. As it turns out, even Glynis isn't all that suprised at what they reveal.
As for the play's second character, a young man named Neville (Emory Van Cleve), I can hardly be accused of being a spoiler when I tell you that Neville was the letter writer and his relationship to the dead man as hidden away as that so recently discovered correspondence. Still, the surprise twist isn't everything.
A play modern enough to cover an era during which Gay men and women have become far less closeted about sexual identities has the potential for great poignancy, with regrets about paths not taken more painful than ever. Furthermore, there's no doubt that there are still men and women who deal with problems shoved into bureau drawers (a marriage with little or no sex, same sex relationships never allowed to flourish); the recent front page scandal that blew the lid of New Jersey Governor McGreevey's sexual proclivities is a case in point, though the Governor's resignation was forced by his misusing his office to give his lover a job more than by his coming out of the perennial closet.
The problem with So Long, Sleeping Beauty, is that it relies on the familiar contrivances of a sudden death and unread love letters to kick up years of problems. Instead of Glynis unpacking thirty years of disappointments to a psychotherapist (another career hat worn by the actress/ playwright), she brings the letters to Neville, using a park bench instead of the therapist's couch.
As any therapist can tell you, getting from denial to self-awareness and the courage to move forward, is a slow and often tedious process. No doubt Ms. Mahon the therapist may have found ways to help some of her patients towards this end, but she has not yet found a way to translate the " talking cure" into a dynamic drama -- despite the apt metaphors of the opening incidental music of "The Flight of the Bumble Bee " and the reference at the end which gives the play its title.
Vincent Dowling's direction does little to heighten the play's more emotional moments, or to help the actors bring more spark to what amounts to a lengthy conversation, more suited, if not the therapeutic couch, to the radio plays still being done in Ms. Mahon's native Ireland. For all their gentleness and yearning neither of these characters manage to make us feel terribly involved with their past, present or future. The best that can be said is that one wishes Glynis luck in emerging from her long beauty sleep, and that Neville will find a man more worthy of his affections than play-it-safe Morris.
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