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A CurtainUp Review

Waiting For the Parade

It's been a long wait for Waiting For The Parade to find its way to a New York Stage. JohnMurrell's nostalgic slice of five Calgary women's lives during World War II had its first production in his native Canada twenty years ago. It's also been twenty years since the 99-seat cabaret space known as the Colonnade has been home to a theatrical tenant.

Located in the basement in the building facing the Public Theatre and now re-named the Dominion, this new-old space has the aura of the sort of smoky nightclub popular during the period during which Waiting For The Parade takes place. Whether the play will send enough people parading down to the Dominion for an extended run remains to be seen. Its appeal is strongest for those with a sweet tooth for nostalgia

As directed by Edward Berkeley, theproduction is a marvel of authentically detailed staging that should pass muster even with those with first-hand knowledge of WWII rather than from family reminiscences and old movies. While the more recently written High Lifeand The End of Civilization (see links) could take place in any medium to large sized city, Mr. Murrell tells his story in distinctly Canadian flavor -- five stories, that is, since each woman has her own problem and point of view. It's also not an in-your-face hard-edged drama-noir but a quietly old-fashioned play about ordinary and not particularly interesting characters coping with extraordinary times. No guns. No x-rated language. Not much action either -- except for some jitterbugging, and the emotional fireworks set off by a missing-in-action telegram and the tension between Janet (Yasmine Delawari) the bossy war effort organization leader and her underlings Eve (Molly Owens), Catherine (Amy Gaipa) and Margaret (Alice Cannon) .

German-born Marta (Angela Redman) is the outsider. Her father's nutty eccentricity have landed him in an enemy alien camp leaving her in charge of their tailor shop to suffer the slings and arrows of patriotic zealotry. In some instances this takes the form of double bigotry exemplified by a customer who mistakes her for a Jew (which at that time and in that place wasn't much better than being suspected of being a Nazi). To underscore Marta's isolation, set designer John Kasarda has smartly moved the shop to the opposite end of the main stage so that the audience becomes the sea that separates her from the women on the larger stage. It is there that most of the scenes unfold, with a few props to suggest homes as well as the volunteer facility where they fold bandages and practice songs and dance steps (with bossy Janet at the piano) to entertain visiting soldiers and sell bonds.

All five actresses do excellent work. Amy Gaipa rates a special maple leaf for the poignancy, humor and effervescence she brings to the role of Catherine. Angela Redman also stands out for the way her character's spirit show through the quiet and dignified restraint.

By the time the chasm between the two stages is finally crossed the last welcoming parade has also rolled into Alberta and the war is over. We also know the reason behind Janet's overbearing behavior, whether sexy Catherine's marriage will weather her wartime affair, and whether Eve's ideals and marriage will survive even though her husband's death would have grieved her less than Leslie Howard's. We never do learn the real age of the seemingly 350-year-old Margaret.

The most enjoyable part of this parade stems from all the little details: The pompadours, Janet's mesh snood, Catherine's polka dot dress, watching the women paint stockings with seams on their legs and, of course, all those de rigueur song and dance hits including "Lili Marlene" and "TheChattanooga Choo Choo." If you're not into this kind of visual and musical time travelling, you may find the end of this parade comes none too soon.

Waiting For the Parade
By John Murrell
Directed by Edward Berkely
Music Director: F. Wade Russo
Choreography: Nora Kasarda
With Amy Gaipa, Alice Cannon, Yasmine Delawari, Molly Owen and Angela Redman
Set design: John Kasarda
Lighting design: Matthew McCarthy
Sound design: Roberg Ogden
Dominion Theatre, 428 Lafayette Street (opposite Public Theatre-- 212/473-1698)
1/29/99- 3/24/99--with possibleextension; opened 2/08/99
Elyse Sommer 2/11/99 based on 2/06 performance

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