The plays of Philip Barry are not for everyone's taste. At their best they are witty and insightful. Unfortunately, when they are not at their best, they are distinctly old hat. In A Garden is clearly not Barry at his best. While the play is well-structured, and at times humorous, the plot is extremely convoluted and difficult to accept. Produced when Barry was only 29, the piece is clearly the work of a young writer willing to sacrifice heart for head. Although the characters are fairly well-drawn, they seem to be merely pawns in the author's elaborate game, and, save for the character of Lissa, are neither interesting nor sympathetic.
The production by The Peccadillo Theater Company was fairly good, but far from exceptional. Standing out were the costumes by Susan Soetaert. This was especially the case in terms of her dresses for Lissa, which were lovely. The set and lights by Kimo James were attractive but could have been more elaborate for greater effect.
The performances were fairly good all around. Notable was Lillian Langford, who was excellent as Lissa. Trudy Steibl gave a good comic turn as Miss Mabie, Terry's loyal -- and later drunken -- secretary. Among the men, Howard Atlee was perfect as Frederick, the butler. If comedies of manners ever come back, he will work constantly. Jim Scholfield, Dale Carman, and Tom Biglin each gave it their all as Terry, Compton, and Bliss, respectively. The direction by Dan Wackerman was competent.
On the whole, it is hard to do much with a gimmicky, dated play such as In A Garden. However, The Peccadillo Theater Company could have done a little more.
Copyright 1997 John Attanas
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