By Lord Byron
Directed by Slava Stepnov
Steps Theatre Company
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Andrés J. Wrath

Mounting Byron's rarely seen verse drama Cain is sort of a curiosity from the modern point of view. It has had quite a history. It failed with a realistic approach at the Moscow Art Theater under Stanislavsky's guidance. There it was canceled after only seven performances. As directed by Slava Stepnov, the play attempts to come alive with a non-realistic approach: music, choreography, etc. What was evident was how sharp and specific Stepnov's work with the verse was and how at odds it felt with the symbolic dance movements.

As the audience entered, Lucifer (John Jiler) played the piano. The play began with a highly stylized telling of the Cain and Abel story in the book of Genesis. The first act is set on Earth without paradise. In the second act, Cain (Jeffry Menaker) is lured into the nether world by Lucifer. In the third act, Cain returns to Earth and slaughters his brother Abel (Brian Seuffert) and is visited by one of God's angels (Jonathan Calindas), who condemns him. Lord Byron's verse is very dense and at times was impossible to understand. Fortunately here, Stepnov lent a specificity to the events of the story that gave the action a clarity that otherwise would have been lost. The evening faltered not so much by the beautiful choreography by Ann Robideaux but the emotional unconnectedness it had in contrast to the emotionally charged verse.

Jeffrey Menaker's boyish Cain seemed wrong at first but rose to the occasion in the second act and was tremendously effective in the murder scene. Stephanie Imhoff's Adah at first seemed bland in the stylized choreography but sailed to heights with her scene with Cain in act three. Calindas's Angel of the Lord, who obviously was not a dancer, filled his movements with specificity and meaning. Here the choreography seemed logical and was the closest to what Stepnov and Robideaux seemed to be striving for. The evening, however, was owned by Jiler's Lucifer, who by turns had a full vocal range and played his text like a musical score. He was seductive, alluring, and very much the tour de force the evening needed. The second act was so well-executed that it may linger in memory longer than anything else in the production.

The extravagant set design by Uta Bekaia, consisting of colorful throw rugs, other assorted jewels, and knick-knacks was alluring, as were his costumes. The lighting design by Jeff Brangan illuminated Lord Bryon's strange verse drama with an otherworldliness.

Others in the cast: Rashgene D. White, Snezhana Chernova, Schoen Smith, Marianna Krylova, Lisa J. Wright.

Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2000 Andrés J. Wrath