Balances of spiderweb

Cybele: A Love Story

By Paul Dick
Directed by Lisa Brailoff
Passajj Productions, Ltd.
Judith Anderson Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Maya T. Amis

Cybele is a bittersweet musical based on the same French novel that inspired the film Sundays and Cybele. It is the story of a lonely schoolgirl and an amnesiac soldier who forge a relationship of love and innocence despite their differing ages. This is a fragile, delicate tale which can be spoiled easily, especially nowadays when people are so very aware of the realities of child abuse. Paul Dick's adaptation has an appropriately gentle touch in dialogue, music and lyric. He is poetic without seeming forced or unnatural, and the music is pretty and appropriate to the characters and the moment. The story unfolds in short segments that introduce characters and events and set the mood of melancholy necessary to the story. One scene flows effortlessly into another. There was at times a dream-like quality, thanks to the undeniably talented cast, stylized set, and evocative language. This is a touching piece of theatre with an almost fragile quality; it is emotional and dramatic, but without the theatrics of the big musical melodramas that have become the standard.

The first-class singing voices of the entire cast were a delight. They all acted well, too, and, with one glaring exception, they were all extremely well-suited to their roles. The exception was the woman who played Françoise, the little girl. Monika Kendall could not possibly play an eleven-year-old child, and her singing voice was most definitely that of a grown woman. This changed the relationship between the child and the soldier completely and added a full-blown sexual element that ought not be there. Ms. Kendall acted well, although some of her attempts to seem like a schoolgirl were unsuccessful, consisting mostly of skipping around and speaking in an unnaturally high voice. As the soldier, Tony Meindl was excellent. He maintained a slightly otherworldly air which was appealing and fascinating; he captured the soldier's loneliness and regret for his lost past beautifully, without undue dramatics. He has a lovely voice, especially in the song ``Stones From a Star,'' which he imbued with magic. His girlfriend was played by Denise Wilbanks, who embodied her role of the loving, long-suffering, but very managing nurse who has been taking care of him. Her character can be a bit irritating, but she was humanized through a song pleading for his love. Jack Fletcher and Karen Arneson played her friends, a painter and his wife, and portrayed shallow officiousness and, in the case of the painter, a kind of macho pride, with wit and style. Allison Baker played a nun who takes care of Françoise and tries to bring some joy into the lives of ``Lonely Children'' with warmth (and another lovely voice). Also appearing, all in multiple parts, were Chris Goffredo, Judith Jarosz, Jesse Johnson, Bruce Montgomery, Stephanie Pakowitz and Christina Seymour. The set, which consisted mostly of gracefully painted flats with abstract designs reminiscent of trees and a spiral stone floor, was designed by Donald L. Brooks. The attractive lighting was by Matthew McCarthy. Costumes by Christine Darch were mostly absolutely appropriate, but the modified nuns' habits were anachronistic for the mid-'50s, and the nurse's white party shoes were simply careless; no nurse would have been allowed to work in such shoes, nor would she have wanted to. Christopher McGovern was a good musical director; his arrangements and accompaniment always seemed transparently natural to the moments of the play.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 1
Acting 2
Set 2
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 Maya T. Amis

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