All I want is a room with a view

River Views

By Stephanie Lehmann
Directed by Robert Kreis
The Thirteenth Street Repertory Company
50 W. 13th St. (675-6677)
Non-union production (Fri.-Sun. at 7 p.m., ongoing)
Review by James A. Lopata

The character Camile (Beth Chiarelli) spends a great deal of time looking out windows in Stephanie Lehmann's fast-paced, enjoyable new romantic comedy at the Thirteenth Street Repertory Company (TSRC).

The first view she sees is from her run-down Bowery Street apartment: a brick wall.

Camile splits her time between acting and assisting a receptionist at a dermatology clinic. Her husband, Danny (Greg Senf), has given up his acting career to make big bucks as a stockbroker. Unfortunately, his salary is well below what he expected. Camile refuses to work at Starbucks, so the only alternative is to risk all their savings and play the stock market.

The second view Camile sees is a panoramic view of the Hudson River. No, the couple has not hit the jackpot yet, but this actress can dream. As written, Camile has an adroit and facile imagination that allows her to sound like a Vanderbilt at the drop of a mortgage approval inquiry. She rhapsodizes at this penthouse window, as a Queen to her subjects below.

The third view is of the suburbs. Yes, Danny outperforms the market, generating $300,000 in one day. At about the same time, Camile receives a Ben Brantley, New York Times rave review comparing her to a young Katherine Hepburn. Then the marriage trouble begins. She wants to live in the city. He wants the suburbs and kids. He wins. This view, a life outside the theatre, makes Camile miserable.

When Danny generates another $500,000, Camile determines to buy the river-view coop. As soon as she does, the rats appear, the dancer upstairs begins tapping, and suburbia doesn't sound so bad after all. Then Danny loses everything at work that day. It doesn't matter anymore. Camile now has the best view of all: a view of her and Danny with a


Lehmann's broadly drawn characters, fantastical story line, and one-liners are reminiscent of early Neil Simon, but with greater character development than laughs. She's got the goods for creating wholesome comedy.

Greg Senf sported a vibrant physical presence, jockeying around with his hockey stick and golf clubs. Debbie DeCarlo whined with the best of them in her intelligent performance as Naomi, the harried real estate broker. The slight Edward A. Hajj fit the role of cultured architect with aplomb. But the star turn went to Beth Chiarelli, who single-handedly bounced from enthusiasm to despair and from reality to fantasy. (Note: the play runs with different casts on alternating nights.)

Director Robert Kreis wisely kept to a cartoon approach. Watching Danny and Camile start jumping up and down when they both have extraordinarily good news was intoxicating.

Overall, it was an enjoyable evening no matter what view you took.
Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1998 James A. Lopata