`Life' doesn't imitate `Art'

Critic's Corner - - Theater

Fell's Point Corner Theatre can't overcome Reza's flat script

Critic's Corner


February 08, 2007|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,Sun theater critic

Yasmina Reza's Life x 3 is a play that owes a debt to Copenhagen, Rashomon and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Like Michael Frayn's Copenhagen and Akira Kurosawa's movie Rashomon, it re-examines a central event from varying angles. And like Edward Albee's Virginia Woolf, the setup is an evening with two academic couples.

Yet Reza's play (translated from the French by Christopher Hampton) defaults on the debt it owes its strong forebears.

The central problem is that if a story is going to be retold several times, it is especially important that it be interesting the first time. Regrettably, Life x 3 fails this test, and director Richard Dean Stover's production at Fell's Point Corner Theatre does little to improve its standing.

Based on this and her best-known play, the 1998 Tony Award-winning Art, Reza is fascinated by the interworkings of ordinary relationships - among friends in Art, and between two married couples in Life x 3. But when the focus is on commonplace characters, it's even more crucial that their interworkings be compelling. The three main questions raised by Life, however, are not exactly earthshaking.

The questions are: Will husband and wife, Henry and Sonia, be able to calm their demanding, crying off-stage child? Will Henry and Sonia survive the social faux pas of confusing the date when they invited Henry's supervisor and his wife to dinner? And, will the unexpected publication of a paper that scoops Henry's astrophysics research doom his career?

None of these issues is pressing or theatrical enough to carry an entire play, even a relatively short, intermissionless one.

Vic Cheswick and Shannon Miller negotiate some swift changes in attitude from one act to the next. But as Henry's superior, Mike Ware delivers a performance that feels too detached for this supposedly intense drama. And as his wife, Adele Russell is simply not given enough material to build a credible character.

Henry's research is about the flatness of galaxy halos - a subject never clearly explained. What is clear is the flatness of Reza's script, a shortcoming this production is unable to overcome.

Life x 3 continues through Feb. 18 at Fell's Point Corner Theatre, 251 S. Ann St. Tickets are $15. Call 410-276-7837.

Center Stage news

Adam Pascal - the Tony-nominated actor who created the role of rock musician Roger Davis on stage and in the screen version of Rent - will headline Center Stage's annual benefit gala May 12. He will be joined by one of his film co-stars, Baltimore native Tracie Thoms, who played the lawyer, Joanne. Tickets, which include dinner, dancing and a silent auction, are $300. For more information, call 410-986-4023.

In other Center Stage-related news, Broadway dates have been announced for director Kenny Leon's production of August Wilson's Radio Golf, which was produced at Center Stage last spring. Starring new cast members Harry Lennix and Tony Award-winner Tonya Pinkins, the final play in Wilson's decade-by-decade chronicle of African-American life will begin previews at the Cort Theatre on April 20 and open May 8.

Shakespeare in D.C.

As part of the Shakespeare in Washington festival, the Shakespeare Theatre is presenting staged readings of three plays attributed in part to Shakespeare. However, the first of these - Edward III on Monday - is sold out. The other readings are: The History of Cardenio, on April 23, and Sir Thomas More, on May 14. The readings begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Call 202-547-1122.


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