1348, the latest offering from acclaimed playwright Tom Dulack, presented by the 42nd Street Workshop, is a dark comedy-mystery focusing on the ever-changing price of self-delusion. Unfortunately, despite its moralistic message, it is an inconsistently interesting piece that leaves many questions unanswered.
The year is 1348, and all of Western Europe has been attacked by the evils of disease, poverty, revolution, and religious intolerance. However, four aristocrats, a mysterious "nun," and a merchant find the ideal refuge in a remote alpine inn - their own perfect coccoon tucked far away from the storms circling around them. There, they are treated heartily to the hospitality of the inn-keeper, Philip, and allowed to practice all their noble vices, while the world is "cleansed" of all her untouchables. But alas - they discover that the very things they are trying to escape are present among them. A terrible tragedy ensues and teaches our guests a lesson in self-knowledge.
Writer/director Tom Dulack has created a play that not only contains characters not fully developed but story lines that remain unfinished. In essence, the play became more about props and eating than about the moral lessons the writer tried to convey to the audience. There was too much information and, thus, predictable happenings, such as the bedroom-sex farce, which served no real purpose. Excessively choreographed and static scenes mingled with unnecessary attempts to create shock - as when the "sister-mother" ran out naked on the stage and writhed in pain, inspiring only pity for the actor.
The two best performances by far were Tim Smith's Gaston de Montrouge and Michael Medeiros's Philip. Mr. Smith, in his imposing figure, had a presence that took over the stage. His constant mispronunciation of Peter Montoni's name was just one example of his deft comic touch. Likewise, Mr. Medeiros gave a brilliant performance as the cunning and smooth inn-keeper, never straying from his mixture of aristocratic arrogance and down-to-earth conviction. Unfortunately, the fine acting ended there. Darby Townsend's Matilde, Craig Rovere's Lorenzo Gorganzaga, Ilvi Dulack's Constance de Montrouge, and Richard Albershardt's Peter Montoni were never quite that interesting, either delivering dry monotonous lines or trying to force their emotions upon the audience. (Also featuring S.M. Girasuolo.)
Brian King's set design was superb - the cozy interior of an alpine inn decorated meticulously with the right props. Similarly, an equally capable job was done by Kristina Kloss and Susan Williams in lighting and sound design respectively, complementing the show well. Finally, kudos to Robert Guy for his superior costume design, which brought out a sense of the period.
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Copyright 1999 Sourabh Chatt