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A CurtainUp Review
There Are No More Big Secrets
By Elyse Sommer
The apparently joyous reunion quickly reveals itself to be fraught with undercurrents. It seems that besides some unresolved romantic issues between Maxine and Gabe, a temporary safe haven isn't all that's being asked by the Russian emigrees of their American hosts. The situation of these exiles from a dangerous world certainly has the makings of an interesting and exciting story. When Maxine extends the celebratory reunion toast to " refuge and recovery" to include "no more big secrets" it soon follows that this is not going to be a stage thriller but a relationship drama. It's a drama that's not just about Gabe and Nina's plight but about the lingering unresolved issues that way back to Maxine, Gabe's and Charles' youth.
Add to this: Maxine's unseen mother in whose home they are living since she's been immobolized by a stroke. . . Gabe and Nina teen-aged daughter who's in the cast list and thus sure to turn up at some point. . .and a rather lengthy conversation about Theosophism to add a mystical touch. It's a sure thing that you won't be wrong to suspect that Schreck, an excellent actress turned playwright, has heaped her plate sky high with plot complications. Too much so for her to make all these bits and pieces mesh into the well-constructed, provocative drama it could be.
Schreck has peopled her script with intriguingly nuanced characters and the acrtors playing them are quite good, with the the best performance by Gibson Frazier as Charles. Also commendable is the way the Rattlestick Theater's miniscule stage has been turned into a handsomely detailed small town rustic home by John Mc Dermott and enhanced with an evocative soundcape by Daniel Kluger. Yet director Kip Fagan (Schreck's husband) has not been able to keep this highly dramatic premise from having a jumpy, incomplete feel. By the end of the rather talky act one we know just what's on the line, besides temporary shelter for Gabe and Nina. We've also been presented with lots of clues as to the state of Maxine and Charles' marriage. The fact that Gabe and Nin'as 14-year-old daughter has been in a Connecticut boarding school for the past four years is either something to be accepted unquestioningly or as a hint about her parents' exact whereabouts during all those years.
If you stay in your seat during the intermission, you'll know that there will be drastic changes when the second act moves the action three months forward. It's not all that difficult to follow just what has happened during those three months. Suffice it to say, quite a lot. I'm not spoiling any surprises when I tell you that the living room's state of transience is due to the desperately ill mother's death. What is surprising and best left without specific details pertains to who else has been claimed by the Grim Reaper, the state of Maxine and Charles' relationship, and what questions are answered even as new ones are raised by the arrival of Gabe and Nina's precociously bratty daughter Lara (a commendable professional debut for Nadia Alexander).
All I'll say is that the same jumpy, incomplete, make-of -this-what-you-will mood and plotting prevails. What about that mystical touch? All I'll say about that is that it involves Nina's a can of sardines.