The Directors Studio’s production of Richard Vetere’s newest work, Lady Macbeth and Her Lover, is decent. The story and its themes are so intriguing that I want everything about this production to be better.
Inspired by the lives of acclaimed poets Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Elizabeth Bishop, the story opens with poets and lovers, Corrine (Maja Wampuszyc) and Hope (Christy Escobar), making a suicide pact so they can escape their lives and be together. Corrine is unable to follow through with it, while Hope dies and becomes posthumously famous. Years later Hope’s daughter, Emily (Christy Escobar), comes to Corrine seeking her poetic advice and approval. Initially Corrine seems delusional and cold with her blunt honesty, but the truth is she just wants to be loved. Emily and Corrine become lovers and colleagues, and as Emily grows into a better poet, their relationship changes.
The first act is very much about Corrine, her cowardice and her illusions. After the first scene of the play paints Corrine in a questionable light, it is difficult to care about her desires later in the play. Just as she convinced Hope to commit suicide, she manipulates Emily to stay with her, to be her protégé and her lover. The reason Emily decides to stay is unclear, but it isn’t until the second act when Emily begins to present as a full character with desires of her own. The second act has a shift of power and conflict, which is the saving grace of the whole performance.
Brittany Vasta’s scenic design and Jennifer Fisher’s costume design are the most finished elements of the show. The set is a collection of coordinated furniture with sheer curtains that give projections life. The costumes show the passage of time and the characters’ personal transitions very clearly.
The majority of the movement feels very natural, yet Michelle Bossy’s direction lacks the edge and suspense to spotlight the complex world of the play. There are moments in which the actors sit or stand still for 5-10 minutes length of conversation. In addition to the sometimes robotic delivery of lines, this choice is problematic.
Maja Wampuszyc feels very unnatural. Her speech has a cadence that suggests she memorized the lines in a particular way. This is unbearable because she does most of the talking. Only a handful of the moments she plays actually feel truthful – which is ironic because her character, Corrine, is so committed to truthfulness.
Christy Escobar, seems a strong actor and this comes through in a few moments of the play, yet it’s hard to see her ability when her scene partner is spitting out words like punching numbers into a calculator. In the second act, the two of them have a far better chemistry. This is likely due to the presence of conflict and a clear power shift .
Richard Vetere’s dialogue is very poetic – intriguing, beautiful and full of occasionally misguided wisdom – but the poetry often obscures the function of conversation. It is his chosen theme and inspiration that I find most captivating, and it is the exploration of this theme that fuels my desire for this work to be a thousand time better than it currently presents.
In theme, the play grapples with the complicated feelings and choices that are required to be a good poet. The scenes, and Corrine’s attitude in particular, alludes to the idea that a poet (or any artist, perhaps) requires a thorough exploration of one’s own darkness. She says, “There is something rich and wicked in digging deep into places the majority of people don’t want to think about.” She then attests that Hope, Emily’s genius-of-a-poet mother, was a failure of a human being because she chose to be a poet first. Corrine then begs Emily to dig deep inside herself in order to become a better poet, as if she cannot be good otherwise. I do not contend that the exploration of personal darkness can be a choice, nor that it can be mined for creativity and yield great artistic work. However, the circumstances of this play do not comment on or allude to the mental illnesses or physiological traumas that often accompany the struggles that brilliant artists have experienced in their lives. Considering the lives of the great poets this work is inspired by, this neglect seems a grave error.
The exploration of this subject matter is very gripping and bothersome – which is why I want Lady Macbeth and Her Lover to improve toward greatness. Work that causes me to ruminate over the existential struggles of artists is worth perfecting.
Lady Macbeth and Her Lover, The Directors Studio at The Directors Company, 311 West 43rd Street, Suite 409. Closes November 19th.
My View: The Only Thing Missing Was A Latte ( with extra foam) Marcy & Zina Party at 54 Below
The only thing missing at last night’s party for Marcy and Zina was a Latte choice in the beverage section on the menu at 54 Below (with extra foam). The show, titled Make Your Own Party: The Songs of Goldrich and Heisler was conceived by Scott Coulter and performed by a cast of five. It celebrated over three decades of quirky, heartfelt and utterly contemporary romantic comedy songs written by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich.
From “Taylor the Latte Boy” to under appreciated altos we were introduced to the cast of characters that inspired these inseparable, irreverent friends to write over three hundred and counting musical love letters to the city, the theatre, and the people who make them sing. The evening was filled with the heart felt stories that these two award winning women have created and was performed by a first rate cast of Broadway super singers. The lyrics, the music, the luscious harmonies…it was the best party of music I’ve ever been invited to.
The Performers: Jill Abramowitz, Cole Burden, Alex Getlin, Joe Kinosian, Kelli Rabke, and Austin Rivers.
Joe Kinosian,piano, Matt Scharfglass, bass
Marcy & Zina have been performing and writing together since 1992. Their critically acclaimed romantic comedy songs have been featured in venues across the world, recorded by artists across many genres, and appear in numerous folios and collected works. Their Off-Broadway musical Dear Edwina earned them a Drama Desk nomination, and other works have been produced by regional powerhouses such as Paper Mill playhouse, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Goodspeed, and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. Their shows include Ever After, JUnie B Jones, and The Great American Musical, based on the bestselling book by auther/director Julie Andrews.
My View: Live from 54 Below…Saturday Night Love Songs
If there is one night during the week when you want-need?- to hear love songs, well, it’s got to be a Saturday night. And this last Saturday, 54 Below provided just the right tonic of famously romantic songs in a show created and hosted by Scott Siegel titled “Love Song Saturday Night”. It’s a new hit series at the club and the songs in the show came from every genre, including Broadway, country, pop, R&B, and more. They were performed by a richly talented cast of stars that sing not from the page, but from the soul. The packed house of mostly lovers had a sensational time and Eda and I got home in time for Saturday Night Live
The Performers: Edward Staudenmayer, Elena Mindlina, Christopher Brian, Moipei, Matthew Drinkwater, Ryan Knowles, Ben Jones. Ron Abel, music director
My View: My Heart Is Exploding With Love For Donna McKechnie
My heart is exploding with love for Donna McKechnie and her jewel box of a show titled: “Take Me To The World – The Songs Of Stephen Sondheim.” Since the legendary composer/lyricist has left this planet, there have been many shows and evenings (with even more to come) trying to capture, assess, explain and illustrate what it is/was that made him the revered genius he has become to any actor who sings. Some more successful or eloquent than others. Some more musical than others. But (and this is a large use of the word) no one has had the span of time on this same plane embodying the work of Sondheim on a stage, more than Donna McKechnie, who starred as Philia on the National Tour of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, which was the first show Steve wrote the words and music for. That already puts her in a class all her own. And “class” is a word that perfectly defines the confection and power that comes across a stage and into audiences hearts when she speaks, sings or dances. No “spoilers” here, but if you want to learn how it’s done, go see Donna McKechnie. She has information we didn’t even know we needed and I would like to be at the head of the class. Awe-inspiring. Stephen is a huge part of her lore and longevity, which can shake away the idea that she will be forever defined as Cassie in A CHORUS LINE. There is, oh, so much more to behold and time has been loving to her, as she to it.
Ian Herman, music director
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