The Voice of the Turtle

By John Van Druten
Directed by Kathleen Powers
Westside Repertory Theatre Co.
252 W 81st St. (874-7290)

Non-union production (closes Jan. 28)
Review by John Attanas

John Van Druten's The Voice of the Turtle opened on Broadway in 1943 and ran for 1557 performances, making it one of the longest-running non-musical plays in Broadway history. Set in a small New York apartment during World War II, the story concerns a young actress, Sally Middleton, who has been burned by a recent relationship with an older, married Broadway producer, and as a result has sworn off both sex and sentimentality, preferring instead to build her career while avoiding romantic involvement with men. When Sally's older, somewhat slutty friend Olive discovers that an old flame who is now a naval officer is in town on leave, she dumps her new flame, Sgt. Bill Page, who is also in town on leave, and leaves him in Sally's company. Over the course of a weekend, Sally and Bill fall in love; and Sally is forced to choose between remaining cool and unsentimental, or submitting to the passion that is building inside of her.

John Van Druten's play is a charming one, and it is easy to understand its success; for in a nation overcome with war, it provided a glimmer of hope that love could prevail even during troubled times. Unfortunately, for all its charm, it is a slight play; and at two hours and fifteen minutes, it is about twenty minutes too long for the story it has to tell.

The Westside Repertory Theatre's production was top-notch in nearly all areas. The Voice of the Turtle is a play that needs to be handled gingerly; and director Kathleen Powers staged the piece subtly and with great care. Most impressive was her use of music and sound effects, both underneath the dialogue and during set changes, in order to set moods.

As Sally and Bill, the extraordinarily lovely Carolyn Sue Dilley and the equally handsome Brian Keith Lewis were a winning pair. Possessing both extremely expressive faces and wonderful stage presence, both of them clearly have bright futures. The same can also be said for Seana Lee Wyman, who was on the mark as the saucy Olive.

David Zyla's set and costumes helped the production a great deal. Notable was his use of a large painting on the back wall of Sally's apartment. While it is questionable whether a struggling young actress would own such a grand work, the painting's image -- an attractive young woman stepping out of her apartment building into the sunshine of a beautiful spring day -- set the tone for the entire piece. Not bad for an Off-Off-Broadway company of limited means. Not bad at all.

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