| He says to me this morning, "Don't worry, Adele, I promise I'll be home before you. Have I ever let you down?" And I say, "No you never let me down. 'Course I thought he was the biggest jerk in high school, so there's not a whole lot to live up to."' —-Adele
Nothing much happens in Becoming Adele: it isn't so much a play as an exercise in storytelling. Good thing, then, that Kimberly Stern, in the title role, is such an appealing storyteller. Her performance is the greatest attribute of the slight, sweet solo play at Theatre Row's Clurman.
Kimberly Stern is Becoming Adele
(Photo: Ben Strothmann)
Becoming Adele is only 90 minutes long it comprises of three acts built around the only three times Adele has made it up to the roof of the Manhattan apartment in which she's lived for 11 years. Each of those trips to the roof is the result of her trying to kill time which she does by relating her life story.
The expository filler in each scene explaining why Adele is on the roof is incredibly clunky. Playwright Eric Houston doesn't find his footing until Adele's sense of humor and storytelling prowess begin to take hold.
The first scene covers , Adele's life as an insecure newlywed. Scene two jumps six years forward and finds her a single mother making ends meet as a waitress. The final scene Adele is on the verge of moving out of her rent-controlled apartment and on to a new life.
As Stern lays out Adele's manifold insecurities, often telling us that she's "invisible," she manages to balance this awkwardness with cheerfulness and an understated determination to try and improve her life (or failing that, to make the best of what she's already got). It's a Stern's performance with enough subtle changes to make it obvious that Adele evolves and matureds from scene to scene.
Victor Maog's laid back direction doesn't interfere much with the script. The emphasis is on Adele's comedic storytelling rather than the more serious or heartrending aspects of her life. Thus there's more energy put into her description of the snooty waitresses at her new restaurant, than her tumultuous relationship with her father.
Stern manages to make Adele likeable and persuade us that she will eventually triumph over her insecurities and difficulties and get her happy ending. What she can't do is give this story dramatic weight needed to make it a riskier and more challenging play, one that uses storytelling as a means to enhance the drama rather than as an end unto itself.
Playwright: Eric Houston
Directed by Victor Maog
Cast: Kimberly Stern (Adele)
Set Design: Antje Ellermann
Costume Design: Myrna Colley-Lee
Lighting Design: Lucas Benjaminh Kerch
Sound Design: Elizabeth Rhodes
Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission
The Clurman at Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd Street, 212-279-4200, www.theatrerow.org
From 12/15/06 to 1/6/06; opening 12/20/06
Mon to Fri @ 8pm, Sat @ 2 and 8pm; Sun 3pm (Dec 31 only)
Reviewed by Julia Furay based on December 18 performance.