Goodbye Kansas!

Dance With Me

By Jean Reynolds
Directed by Alan Wynroth
Abingdon Theatre Company
424 West 42nd (802-8383)
Equity showcase (closes April 5)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

This play developed in sections. The mysterious first third, filled with ectopically pregnant Pinteresque pauses, poetry, and portentous chit-chat (squeezed out according to the Albee school of repetitious line-writing), kept the audience in a Rembrandt darkness-unintentionally, as it turned out when the electrician finally got the light board to function.

Also unintentional may have been some odd touches of Pirandellish-Norman Learish humor in the middle third.

But by the end, what started out as run-of-the-mill domestic isosceles turned into equilateral ménage à trois as peculiar as it was comic. Fortunately, the author and director worked out the complex trigonometry like a balletic string trio with plenty of filigreed counterpoint and graceful movement.

Some of the author's dialogue rated pretty high ("We're on the border of us" as the train sped past a wooer's station); but some may have stretched a bridge too far ("On your shoulder there was a committee of freckles").

The story follows an attractive older man (Peter Michael Brouwer) as the object of two women's affections: his wife's and a stranger's whom he meets in the bar car of a train headed for Albany.

The man is a cad and a fool; but Mr. Brouwer put his all into the part, allowing his character to revert to a state of juvenilia that revealed a touching, dancing vulnerability rarely visible in a mature man.

The new object of his attraction (played by Lillo Way) throws caution to the wind. But then her suitor is a doctor who's no longer in love with his wife, and...who knows?

Ms. Way seemed more like a capable nurse than a subject for romantic fascination or lust. But that impression was probably due to casting.

The lonely wife (played super-dramatically by Kara V. Sekuler) knows she's got a child for a mate and manipulates his weaknesses to defend the relationship. The action gets as twisted as a tourniquet as Ms. Sekuler kicks her toes in the author's arch humor to leave her bewildered husband in the dust.

The plot kinks more and more as the wife invites the mistress to tea "to share secrets." As the mistress lifts her cup, it becomes difficult to tell which is spider and which fly, and what the hell is going on.

But by the time the wronged woman starts brushing the golden tresses of the interloper, even Toto knows the train's long gone from Kansas!

The unit set (by Ellen E. Jones, who did better with her lighting design) was serviceable. But more could have been done with the bar car to suggest a train.

Deanna Berg was responsible for the spiffy 1950s costumes, which were perfect and well-modeled by the actors; and Dawn Costello wrote some incidental music for piano and synthesizer that neatly chugged everything along.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 1998 Scott Vogel