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A CurtainUp Review

Wintertime at New York's Second Stage
Marsha Mason & Michael Cerveris
Marsha Mason & Michael Cerveris
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Despite less than ecstatic reviews, including that of CurtainUp's Kathryn Osenlund below, Wintertime has moved to Second Stage for a limited run. It's scenery is still pretty as one of those glass balls you shake up to create a snowfall.

The script has undergone minor tweaking and several cast changes since its staging at the McCarter Theatre Center. Christopher Denham playing the boy, Jonathan, while the always excellent Mary Louise Burke has replaced Lola Pahalinski as grouchy Carmen de Lavallade lesbian partner (she does not disappoint!). These changes notwithstanding, the review below generally holds.

Paul Schoeffler will take over Michael Cerveris's role for the 3/10 matinee and the entire 3/15 to 3/21 week. The current cast is as follows: Michael Cerveris (Francois), Marsha Mason (Maria), Tina Benko (Jacqueline), Brienin Bryant (Ariel), Marylouise Burke (Hilda), T. Scott Cunningham (Edmund), Carmen de Lavallade (Bertha), Christopher Denham (Jonathan), Nicholas Hormann (Frank) and Danny Mastrogiorgio (Bob).Other production credits remain, except that the play is now at Second Stage, 307 W. 43rd St., 212-246-4422 with performances Tue at 7pm; Wed - Sat at 8pm; Wed & Sat at 2pm; Sun at 3pm. The play's run: 2/3/04 to 3/21/04; opening 3/02/04 (moved up from original 2/23 opening). Tickets: $36 - $55.

--- 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.

By Charles L. Mee
Directed David Schweizer

Cast: Tina Benko, Brienin Bryant, McCaleb Burnett, Michael Cerveris, T. Scott Cunningham, Carmen de Lavallade, Nicholas Hormann, Marsha Mason, Danny Mastrogiorgio, Lola Pashalinski
Set Design: Andrew Lieberman
Lighting Design: Kevin Adams
Costume Design: David Zinn
Sound Design: Eric Shim
Choreographer: Sean Curran Running time: 2 hours with one 15 min intermission 10/14/2003-11/02/2003;
Reviewed by Kathryn Osenlund based on 10/17 performance at McCarter Theatre, Princeton, NJ

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