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A CurtainUp Review
This work may bring to mind Baby Case, a musical first reviewed by Curtainup in Philadelphia and again at last summer’s New York Musical Festival , which dramatized the media circus ignited by the kidnapping and subsequent killing of the Lindbergh baby. However, North is a complete 180-degree turn from the tone of that show. Whereas Baby Case. focused on the loud pandemonium surrounding the Lindbergh murder trial, North investigates the complex psyche of Anne as she struggles to come to terms with her adult life.
As helmed by Schlueter, this bio-drama goes beyond navel gazing, with Anne (Christina Ritter) indulging in her writing aspirations with a famous writer. It navigates through some of the same roiling waters as the musical, but explores the tragic episode of her child’s murder in a more wistful tone, as part of a painful past that she must accept and move beyond. Set on the brink of World War II, Anne must also confront, the harsh realities of war.
As the play begins Anne enters, holding a note and an envelope from her publisher. It's a personal invitation from “St Ex” (Christopher Marlowe Roche) to meet him in New York in connection with the “polite preface” to her new book about flight (Listen! The Wind) that she agreed to write. But what began as a mere literary gesture ends up striking a deep chord in the publisher's own psyche, or as he explains to Anne during their conversation in New York: “There was something classical about the book. Something fundamental. Like a Greek play.”
There’s no doubt that Anne welcomes St. Ex's literary praise. She had been sorely in need of personal validation as an adult who long stood in the shadow of her husband Charles (Kalafatic Poole). The experience of being recognized for her craft by a serious writer is deeply gratifying to her.
North charmingly captures, if not Anne’s coming-of-age as an artist, her thrill at learning that her new book actually made a sophisticated man of letters pause and see the “world of flight” from a different perspective. To heighten this key moment, Anne steps partially out of the scene with St Ex and confides this feeling to the audience: “It was very exciting. Perhaps it was only because it was almost the first time anyone had talked to me purely on my craft. Not because I was a woman to be polite to, to charm with superficials. Not because I was my father’s daughter or Charles’ wife."
Although the play mostly sustains a serious tone, there’ is a light interval early on, with romantic sparks flying between St Ex and Anne during their tête-à-tête (her husband Charles makes a later appearance). While this injects a risqué element, it seems like a distortion of Anne’s demure personality, making her appear more flighty than serious-minded. At any rate, Schlueter steers her play clear of any ménage a trois entanglements, and wisely sticks with the notion of Anne and St Ex being soul-mates.
Brad Steinmetz’s set literally swings. Three swings that are gracefully suspended from the flies.serve as quasi seats for the characters as they verbally unpack their minds and hearts. The resulting to-and-fro movements add a dynamic feel to the story telling and provide a perfect analogy for flight itself. And so, despite a few clunky spots and a less than fleshed out portrait of the legendary aviator Charles, North does takes theatrical flight.
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