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|A CurtainUp Review
By Jenny Sandman
Butler and Laurel are just back from their African safari honeymoon. While they love each other, the new marriage is tense and a sexual failure. Butler waxes rhapsodic about drugged cheetahs and Masai warriors, reveling in his WASPy, suburban "discovery" of native Africa. He is trying to model his own honeymoon after that of his father who had an epochal visit to Paris. Dad himself roams through the play telling honeymoon stories. While Butler fills his and Laurel's home with African trinkets and carefully arranges photo albums of honeymoon snapshots, his bride mopes around with her ubiquitous book of poetry, not happy but unsure of what to do about it. Butler's ebullient stories, we discover, are a mask--Laurel hated most of the trip, and they had sex only once.
Add to the above Butler's friend David, an affected, Nietzsche-quoting gallery owner with a strange wedding present. He gifts the newlyweds with a sleek postmodern phone that cannot call out. The incoming calls it can receive are limited to calls from Marlon Brando. And so, Brando, hiding out in an undisclosed location, begins calling the household for amusement. But Laurel sees something (hears something?) in Brando that is missing in her life, and when she disappears after a fight, Butler is convinced she is with their caller. He goes to confront Brando, and though the outcome is not what anyone expected, it paves the way for Laurel's new beginning.
Though the acting as a whole is uneven, Dante Giammarco holds the play together with his riveting and deeply droll portrayal of the legendary actor. His Brando, more Big Daddy or Ernest Hemingway than Vito Corleone, is charismatic and brash, and wisely avoids the childishness and fits of pique the real Brando is known for. He is a breath of fresh air into an otherwise staid production.
Scott Duffy as David Block, the Eurotrash-wanna-be artist, is quite funny in his pretension, but his performance is entirely one-note. Kate Roe as Laurel is sweet, but Jason Marr as her husband Butler is just plain strident. Like Phoebe's one-time boyfriend (played by Alec Baldwin) on Friends, Butler is completely unlikable in his unrelenting optimism. It's no wonder Laurel feels trapped. Only at the very end does his suburban worldview waver, and even then not for long. The actors give bright and shiny performances, but they still seem uncomfortable with their characters and with each other--which shows in the largely unnuanced acting.
Hilary Adams, a regular in the New York theatre scene, does a great job directing and handles the space well. But she can only do so much with the limited text. Roberts' play has a lot of great writing and one really great character, but doesn't gel. The scenes overlap too much and the climax is, well, anticlimactic. But the set design is lovely, both spacious and claustrophobic, and strewn with a variety of beautiful African pieces. Audax (Latin for "bold") appears to be a talented theatre group, worth watching. While Brando is uneven, it's worth seeing for Brando's scenes. Even the real Brando is rarely so watchable these days.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co. Click image to buy.
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6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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