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A CurtainUp Review
Triptych


Look, I am not breaking up your marriage and I don't intend to. . .I am his mistress and I know the rules.---Mistress
You and your ilk are a pox on married households. . . ---Wife
Triptych Cast
Ally Sheedy (left), Carrie Specksgoor and Margaret Colin
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
It's been years since Edna O'Brien charmed me with her debut coming of age novel Country Girls. The Irish Rep's presentation of Triptych, her first work expressly written for the stage, seemed a perfect opportunity for an overdue re-acquaintance with O'Brien's often lyrical writing. A cast that features two women whose work I've seen and admired -- Margaret Collins and Ally Sheedy -- and an excellent design team heightened my anticipation.

I wish I could say that Triptych exceeds my expectations for a sharp-edged, stimulating theater piece. To be sure, Colin and Sheedy don't disappoint, and newcomer Carrie Specksgoor ably completes the trio that's locked in a battle for the affection of a never seen but ever-present womanizer. But these actors can do just so much with a story with the flavor of an old wine that hasn't aged well and can't be re-bottled with an infusion of strong language and hints of a mÚnage Ó trois.

The story, set in today's New York, begins with Pauline (Colin) stalking Clarissa (Sheedy), an English actress (Sheedy's hold on her accent is at times precarious) who is the latest threat to her marriage to Henry, a successful playwright. Since we never meet Henry, we are asked to buy into his irresistible charisma via Pauline's obssessive hold-onto-him-at any cost love, his teen aged daugther Brandy's daddy fixation and Clarissa's inability to hold onto her autonomy. It's a hard sell. And his forcing Clarissa to get rid of her baby, and unavailabity to the needy Brandy even after she sublimates with sex and drugs make him seem like a self-absorbed jerk who makes this who's got him game hardly worth the candle. Clarissa's description of the marriage adds to this sense that this is much ado about a rather typical and unworthy man ("we were so happy. . .we were so right for each other. . .we were inseparable. . .it was like a hand in a glove. . .I was the glove and he was the hand and then he was the glove and I was the hand. Oh he changed slowly but surely. . .he changed. Fame, women. . .").

Colin is terrific as the wife who teeters on the brink of alcoholism and insanity as she demonstrates the lengths to which she will go to hold onto her man. She brings a scary sense of madness to a scene in which she actually seduces Clarissa. Ultimately, though, the sexual threesome business lacks credibility, as does most everything else. Numerous details seem forced and incredible -- for example, Brandy's drums and her outburst of drumming and Clarissa's career which seems more suited to a British repertory company than New York theater. Finally, there's the facile ending which leaves Pauline in control -- not of Henry the man, but Henry's literary legacy.

Director Jones and his designers do their utmost to give the play an aura of cutting edge modernity. Too bad the play can't rise above its self-consciously poetic banalities and shed its numbing sense of never coming to an end even though it runs only ninety minutes.

Triptych
Written by Edna O'Brien'
Directed by David Jones
Cast: Ally Sheedy, Carrie Specksgoor and Margaret Colin
Set Design: Michael McGarty
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood
Lighting Design: David Weiner
Sound Design: Scott Myers
Dialect Coach: Stephen Gabis
Running time: 90 minutes, without intermission
Irish Rep, 132 W. 22nd St. 212-727-2737
From 9/28/04 to 11/14/04; opening 10/07/04.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on October 6th pressperformance
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