Performances worth watching in Coward's 'Nude With Violin'

March 11, 1994|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to The Sun

Noel Coward's "Nude With Violin" currently in production by the Pasadena Theatre Players is proof positive that even witty playwrights have their off days.

The premise is cute enough, I suppose. An abstract painter revered by the cognoscenti of the art world has died. But when his estranged family descends on his Paris flat for the funeral, it becomes clear that the deceased -- in cahoots with a bizarre set of cohorts -- has been thumbing his nose at the pretentious experts all along.

Scandalized by the revelations, the loved ones must decide how to keep the lid on as the playwright injects a bit of British farce into his aesthetic commentary.

At his best, Sir Noel was a witty fellow, but the predominant impression here is one of excessive dialogue. My God, how these people talk. Reminiscences and descriptions go on and on. Narrations substitute for action throughout, and the result is an acute awareness of the passage of time.

Still, at PTC there are always performances worth watching. Mindy Braden eclipses everyone with her portrayal of Jane, the artist's daughter who's enough of a chip off the old block to appreciate what the old reprobate was up to.

Kevin Wallace is funny as her fuddy-duddy brother and does his valiant best to bring humor to what is essentially a one-joke role.

Georgia Morgan is suitably wacky as the mysterious Russian woman, and Jerry Khatcheressian adeptly reprises his role of Hysterium in "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum" as the apoplectic art dealer whose career will be ruined if the truth ever comes out.

A fair number of lines were still being stepped on at the performance last Sunday, and you have to wonder about an English family that speaks with such remarkably inconsistent British accents.

But most of all, one wonders about a play that, in its own way, seems as pretentious as the artsy-artsy phonies it's poking fun at.

"Nude with Violin" will play tonight, Saturday and Sunday and March 17-19 at Baldwin Hall in Millersville. Thursday through Saturday performances are at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $7 on Thursday and Sunday, $8 on Fridays and Saturdays. Information: 923-7687.

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