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|A CurtainUp Review
--- Original Review ---By Kathryn Osenlund
Wintertime has an elaborate white set to match the name, with snow from top to bottom. Snow falls gently on the beautiful white landscape, on the white trees, and implausibly, upon the white furniture of a living room. A young man and woman enter from the outdoors, coming down a hill. He has skis. They are not wearing coats. Things are not going to be normal.
The young couple, Jonathan and Ariel, hope for a weekend getaway at his parents' country home. McCaleb Burnett manages to negotiate Jonathan's underwritten role well. Brienin Bryant, with eyes as big as saucers plays cute, terminally talkative Ariel. Unfortunately for them, Jonathan's mother (lively Marsha Mason) is there with her French lover (Michael Cerveris in an audience-pleasing performance). Jonathan's father (Nicholas Hormann) arrives with his homosexual partner. Hormann gives a fine performance, particularly in the first scene of Act Two. And T. Scott Cunningham's Edmund, the partner, is a sleeper show-stealer.
Each couple had planned on privacy for the winter weekend. Throw in a lesbian couple who resemble no one as much as Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas (Lola Pashalinksi, Carmen de Lavallade, both highly entertaining), and an extremely improbable doctor (beautiful Tina Benko), and the story is set to go.
Except for the subject matter, Act One seems like a school play. The actors are all just fine, but they are stiffly arranged and blocked, facing front. Cute and jokey skit-type lines establish the caricatures who are to be the evening's characters. With the usual misunderstandings of love, and also whimsical, out-there stuff, the play comes off as amusing and very forced at the same time. Playwright Mee works in issues of love, withholding of love, jealousy, and observations on trust, mixing them with lots childish behavior.
It's one crazy thing after another. A deliveryman (funny Danny Mastrogiorgio) holds forth on Greek philosophy and Agamemnon. (I wondered how Mee was going to work the Greeks into it.) The most theatrical and successful moment of the act comes when a stand-alone door, specifically brought in for the purpose, is repeatedly and hilariously slammed for emphasis. All in all though, Act one might be mistaken for Little Theater. Not so Act Two.
Act Two opens as the zany characters gradually enter a memorial service and take their places on silver chairs lined up against a dark drape. The play slows down as it appears to be gathering momentum and perhaps preparing to make a point. Not to worry, the momentum dissipates. There seem to be no rules, and unfortunately a play is less compelling when anything goes.
There is a group "rending of garments", and brightly lighted, fun, yet totally ridiculous activity follows. The play doesn't build, it disperses. A pity, because if the author had not purposefully abdicated control this could have been a contender instead of a free for all.
It is wacky and silly. There are a lot of laughs and some thoughts on love. However, when there's no rhyme or reason, not even absurdist reason, what we have is burlesque, not drama. There is a nice looking ending. Had this been more of a play, the ending might have been poignant.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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