W(h)ine country

Going To Bordeaux

By Richard Lay
Directed by Gus Smythe
Sage Theatre Company
Jan Hus Playhouse
351 East 74th St. (206-1515)
Equity showcase (closes Dec. 16)

Review by Doug DeVita

Richard Lay has the makings of a very moving family drama in his play Going To Bordeaux, but despite several highly acclaimed readings and several of its passages' being published, he has a lot more work to do before it becomes a viable piece of theatre.

The chief problem with his script (besides its brevity) is a lack characters with which an audience can identify. Yes, their problems are familiar, their situations are even compelling, but as written they are so nasty a bunch of whiny, selfish jerks that any sympathy that might be engendered for them is quickly lost. In addition, Lay tells his story in long passages of repetitive exposition that explain a lot but do not ignite the dramatic possibilities of his concept. The lack of action stymied director Gus Smythe and his cast, and with very little to play except ideas, the somnambulistic production very quickly became little more than a play about a large couch firmly planted center stage.

Of the four-member cast, only Michelle Esrick gave any indication that she believed in what she was doing, investing her performance with an inner glow that allowed her to rise above the elusively gossamer material and find the essence of her character. The others were merely there; reciting lines and injecting only as much energy as needed to get through the show, if they had any commitment or trust in the project it sure wasn't evident from their on-stage demeanor.

The set, consisting of that immense, ratty couch and a few other pieces of furniture, was credited to L.A. Lippolis, Anetra Humphries supplied anemic, unvarying lighting, and the costumes (uncredited) were standard, contemporary wardrobe items that neither added to nor took away from anyone or anything.

There are ideas galore for Lay to explore with Going To Bordeaux, ideas that are nearly Ibsenesque in their perceptions of human behavior. But as it currently stands it is an intriguing blueprint for a play Lay has yet to achieve. He comes tantalizingly close at times (Esrick's performance, especially, allows the possibilities to be seen), but ultimately he lands far short of the considerable goal.

(Also featuring Jeff Farber, Erin Keefer, and Sarah Strasser)

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 0
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 0

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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita