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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Violet Hour
One thing you can be absolutely sure of in the work of this ever-astonishing playwright. What you see won't be anything like what you saw in his last play. There'll be none of the baseball obsession and naked team lineup that swept the awards board for Take Me Out Greenberg has played with time before in Three Days of Rain, which Julia Roberts chose for her Broadway debut, but The Violet Hour has more in common with Barrie's Dear Brutus, in which houseguests leave a party and find themselves in another dimension.
In Stuart Rogers' commendably low-key and naturalistic production for Theatre Tribe, the cast gives equal weight to both conflict and suspense. Set on April 1, 1919, this April Fool's day story in the new office of fledgling publisher John Pace Seavering (Thomas Burr) first hints at something out of the ordinary when a mysterious machine arrives and starts spouting papers which turn out to be history books written at the end of the 20th century. Pace is alternately aided and needled by his assistant Gidger (Kyle Colerider-Krugh) who is gay before the word was invented and is highly insulted when he finds out it's been co-opted by the future and replaced with Quot;frivolity"
br> "To be gay is not to be frivolous. To be gay is to be light-hearted in the face of every kind of darkness," he storms. That's just one example of the marvelous word-play that make Greenberg's plays so unique and as much of a pleasure to read as to hear.
Act I sets up a conflict between two authors, Pace's best friend Denny (Jeff Kerr McGivney) and his lover Jessie (Angelle Brooks). Denny, whose work both in length and loquaciousness evokes Thomas Wolf, says, "In life, Pace, you either soar or plummet; it's this vast in between that destroys the soul." His three crates contain what Pace calls " a catastrophe of pages." Yet Pace isn't quite ready to commit to publishing the memoirs of Jessie, modeled on Jazz Age singer Josephine Baker. Pace says he can only afford to publish one book and this conflict appears to be a promising dramatic premise all by itself
In Act II we join Pace and Gidger in their irresistible impulse to read what the future will bring, not just another Great War, but the personal futures of their friends and Pace's biography. We see how the Denny and Jessies' passionate desires to be published may destroy them and Pace's determination to change the future.
Burr plays a perfect Princetonian, gentlemanly, well-read but with a voracious desire for the dark delights Jessie can teach him. Brooks as Jessie is a mesmerizing beauty who ranges from mellow to distraught with silken ease. McGivney finds the vitality and youthful impetuosity in Denny who accuses Pace of wanting to undo him "because everything I have is mine and everything you have is inherited". His beloved Rosamund, whose name Pace hopes indicates the same fate as Romeo's Rosamund, is a rich girl who won't marry Denny unless he makes some money because she knows it will destroy them if he can't. Elizabeth O'Brick gives Rosamund a high-strung delicate charm that is right for the character which suggests Zelda Fitzgerald. On opening night, her voice was a little hard to hear but projected better in the second Act. Colerider-Krugh plays Gidger as written, a comic effeminate counter-point to the conflicts of the others. Rogers never lets him go over the top. Douglas Lowry designed the excellent set, very 1919.
If Greenberg could be categorized, it might be as a comic philosopher. His delights and devices have a unique place among today's playwrights.
Editor's Note: This play's Broadway premiere was dogged by cast problems and thus never gained altitude with critics and audiences. To read the review of that troubled production go here.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide