In a cabin in the High Sierras, after bad luck downsized the Gold Rush, overturned the family wagon, washed away the home, and killed the firstborn children, a preg-nant wife (Michelle Riu) struggles to convince her perennially optimistic hus-band that maybe ``we've done it wrong.''
Charles Krueger as the foolhardy husband showed more of an actor struggling to be true to the emotional cen-ter of his character than a professional card-shark who gambled away his chil-dren's lives to charm the pants off prospectors. Krueger's earnest posture, bent with tension, wasted time in the pac-ing and projected more interior doom than radiant charm.
Finally expressing real tears (to the tinkling of a music box issuing from a loudspeaker in the rear of the theatre), his ef-fects were emotionally credible. But his character would have played trombones.
Riu was very good, clear, strong, and moved dramatically. But if she was prima ballerina, her danseur noble struggled too much to keep her in the air for her efforts to appear effortless.
The second play presented as complete a psychological profile of an extramarital teacher-student affair as you're likely to get. The very fine (but probably too old for the part) Karen Usher as the hapless former student looked like a young Uta Hagen. (Hagen would have been proud to be her teacher.) But it was the perfectly cast Joe Corey, as the caddish professor, who was completely credible--up to the point where Oedipal overtones started clanging, and the author flirted with the ludicrous. To climax what began as a pas-toral play with a death and transfiguration scene would challenge the greatest of writ-ers. Barlow was braver than most in ac-cepting the challenge, and the company's artistic strength happily contributed to her being a contender.
David Sinclair played a minor role and carried a big stick that was supposed to be a rifle. He fooled no one.
The imaginative director set moods and managed actions well enough. He found interesting ways to get people onto the stage but was sometimes less success-ful getting them off.
Low-budget accouterments were thoughtfully assembled--except for the rifle, which will never do.
The evening's program alluded to the enormous personal difficulties encoun-tered by the ambitious and promising company's noble efforts. But the bottom line always is: even the great Russian theatre masters produced ``plays,'' not ``strugglings.''
Copyright 1996 Marshall Yaeger
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