Back to Metroland's Home Page!
 Site Search
   Search Metroland.Net
   View Classified Ads
   Place a Classified Ad
   Online Personals
   Place A Print Ad
 Columns & Opinions
   The Simple Life
   Looking Up
   Myth America
   Rapp On This
 News & Features
   What a Week
   Loose Ends
   This Week's Review
   The Dining Guide
   Tech Life
 Cinema & Video
   Weekly Reviews
   The Movie Schedule
   Listen Here
   Art Murmur
   Night & Day
   Event Listings
 About Metroland
   Where We Are
   Who We Are
   What We Do
   Work For Us
   Place An Ad
Translucent beauty: Dissonance’s Witt.

Pitch Perfect

By Ralph Hammann


By Damian Lanigan, directed by Amanda Charlton

Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, Mass., through July 8

Dissonance is that rare bird these days, a comedy with substance and style. Damian Lanigan combines a talent for writing believable and sympathetic characters with an ear for crisp dialogue, a knack for intrigue and a gift for one-liners. And while he certainly keeps us laughing throughout, it is all in the service of a play that is about things that matter, like family, change, communication and the dynamics of relationships that tend to be defined by roles in work—or whether one plays viola, cello, first violin or second fiddle.

Heading the Bradley Quartet, who have been playing together for 10 years, is James Bradley the acid-tongued first violinist who can spit out sidesplitting invectives as easily as he can draw his bow across the strings. Daniel Gerroll sounds all the right notes of James’ bon mots, and rises to the challenge of delivering the bulk of the laughter while also emerging as something of a tragic character. It’s a superb performance about which every detail is correct from the dramatic sweep to the right of his widow’s peak to the expert timing and intonation of his frequently outrageous verbal assaults that observe neither politeness nor political correctness.

Hal, the second violinist, aspires to wrest some control of the group from James. The challenge of the student to the master becomes familiar to anyone who has been placed in the role of child or parent, student or teacher, rebel or traditionalist. Such universal appeal would amount to little were the characters unevenly matched, but in Thomas Sadowski’s Hal, Gerroll finds a worthy, albeit less witty, opponent.

The rift between James and Hal poses a serious threat to the future of the quartet. Should youth respect experience? Should age bow to youth? A secondary threat comes from Beth, a young cellist who undertakes the personal tutelage of a multimillionaire rock star, Johnny, who wants to know more about classical music and how the four separate voices of a quartet can play and sound as one. As Beth bridges the two worlds, James and Hal react with undignified prejudice and snobbery to the threat of a musical form that neither understands or acknowledges. For Hal there is the additional threat of Johnny’s sexual allure to Beth; with James there is also the sense that, like Henry Higgins, he doesn’t want to see his Eliza wasted on the Freddies of the world.

In Alicia Witt’s translucent performance of Beth, the production finds its most balanced and sympathetic character. Her beauty alone is motivation enough for three of the four male characters to have fallen in love with her, but Witt goes well beyond that, lending a euphonious voice to the squabbling sounds of James and Hal and observing all around her with a beguiling alertness and shrewdness. If possible, she becomes increasingly lovely when she finds herself drawn to Johnny. One can almost sense her quivering with sensitivity and awe as a new world opens before her—just as one can feel her sensuousness increase as she makes Beth more vulnerable.

As Johnny, Patch Darragh is last to arrive and becomes something of an interloper, both for the quartet and also the audience, who become protective of the quartet. However, Darragh so skillfully exploits Johnny’s naiveté and simplicity that he soon wins us over. Indeed, the various red hues of his environs are a visual relief from the walls of the rehearsal hall. That both Darragh and Witt are redheads may be kismet or coincidence, but it works.

In his depiction of the internal harmonies and dissonances of a string quartet, Lanigan has astutely created a microcosm of the family or of any entity made up of individuals who must orchestrate their differences and similarities in the pursuit of a common good. Brava to director Amanda Charlton and her first-rate cast for introducing an original, vital and much-needed comic voice.

When the Whip Comes Down

Behave Yourself

By Leslie Ayvazian, directed by Martha Banta

Adirondack Theatre Festival, through July 7

Mistress Lorraine cracks the whip. Connie cracks the whip. Eddie cracks the whip. Phil tries to crack the whip. Hank cracks the clothesline. Sissy wants the whip to be cracked.

Three couples and their relationship to the whip—“all whips are a symbol of power,” Mistress Lorraine (Joan Rosenfels) states in her “S&M 101” course—is the theme of Behave Yourself, another not-ready-for-prime-time premiere at Adirondack Theatre Festival. As with ATF’s “world premiere” last season, All Is Not, Behave Yourself shows that the old-girls network isn’t any more meritorious than the old-boys network. While ATF has been the Garden of Eden for many notable plays in years long past, more recently the “world premiere” plays have been brief, pretentious, tedious affairs that were even more grating in comparison to ATF’s earlier, stellar work like Fully Committed, Barbara’s Blue Kitchen, and It Goes Without Saying.

Behave Yourself features early-middle-age couple Connie (Johanna Day) and her chiropractor husband Eddie (Bruce Mac Vittie) trying to liven up their suburban New Jersey wallpaper bedroom (center stage) with some bondage and discipline play from “8:25 to quarter till 9” when Eddie has to leave for work.

When a miffed Connie abruptly leaves the house dressed in her bondage gear to attend Mistress Lorraine’s aforementioned class on the “Lower East Side, NYC,” Eddie is left handcuffed to a chair; their discussion of who’s a top and who’s a bottom is left for the next-door neighbors, Sissy (Brenda Currin) and Hank (Hal Robinson) to finish. Hank keeps yelling “I’ve got to whack off these cuffs” when the key can’t be found, and Sissy swoons at the thought of Connie and Eddie’s bedroom romps.

Hank and Sissy retreat to their Motel 6-esq living room stage right, while Connie learns the ropes from Mistress Lorraine downstage left in her “dungeon,” a red brick wall with a cabinet of whips, ropes, and a teddy bear for practice. Connie learns the aforementioned symbolic nature of whips, and that B&D means never having to say your sorry. “The best way to maintain authority is to enjoy authority,” Mistress Lorraine intones like a leather-wearing Dick Cheney, and she tells Connie “Never say you’re sorry” several times. Connie watches as Mistress Lorraine practices snapping the whip, sometimes successfully, as Senator Phil (Brian Russell) wears a pink apron and tells Connie, “You don’t see me and don’t call me senator.”

The mingling of the couples is soon done, and each pair is left in their own part of the stage to discover that B&D isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Theater has always had that dance of exhibitionists and voyeurs going for it, but Behave Yourself’s 70 minutes shows that adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained” is true. Behave Yourself is a long one-act that would titillate those easily titillated by pleather play; it’s a play that uses fetish play to ultimately show that Behave Yourself doesn’t need a safe word.

—James Yeara


Send A Letter to Our Editor
Back Home
Copyright © 2002 Lou Communications, Inc., 419 Madison Ave., Albany, NY 12210. All rights reserved.