My Dinner with Goethe

Written and Directed by Douglas Langworthy
Todo Con Nada
Non-union production (Closed)
Reviewed by John Michael Koroly

Target Margin Theatre has one of the most explicit and focused mission statements in Off-Off-Broadway. They are ``founded on the principle that works of art return us to real truths most powerfully by their divergence from a strict illustration of reality.'' Their ``Blizzard Festival'' currently running at Todo Con Nada exemplified this with their staging of writer/director Douglas Langworthy's My Dinner with Goethe.

Langworthy's script weds two unlikely dramatic sources: Louis Malle's 1981 film My Dinner with André and the writings of Goethe (specifically, his ``Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship'' and ``Rules for Actors'').

Leaving aside for the moment the question of ``why?,'' it takes the structure of the film in that a rather simple but intelligent fellow in a mundane business meets over dinner with an old friend who's pursued a career in the theatre. They discuss acting, art, and artifice while the waiter delivers their food to them and nostrums on acting to the audience. The text does succeed in a charmingly odd way in uniting the two sources to produce a thought-provoking and highly entertaining whole. Goethe's classically based love of theatre is made a spiritual sibling to the modernist sensibilities in Malle's film, forming a bridge across time that is, in its own small way, profound.

Langworthy's direction had a lulling surreal feel to it and made constant charming visual references to the movie, such as the costumes. They are the same tan duster and burgundy sweater that Wallace and Andre wore, but the two characters also wear 18th-century powdered wigs, a comic reminder of the material's source. The production even ended with the same Satie ``Gymnopédie'' that ends the film.

Trui Malten's set suggested an elegant restaurant successfully with just a table setting, a painting, and a green carpet. And Malten's lighting had a nice sense of extended reality. Also, there was a triptych of splendid performances. Gary Brownlee made an energetic nebbish. Do Carter was engagingly contemplative and only occasionally full of himself (as befit the character of the actor). And Aaron Beall once again proved himself a sublimely gifted cerebral clown. His physical ad libs with a cork stuck in a wine bottle were especially funny.

Target Margin Theatre continues its Blizzard Fest at Nada through December 23rd with stagings of Shakespeare's CYMBELINE, a brand new adaptation of Hoffman's ``Nutcracker'' by Langworthy and David Herskovits, as well as a number of original works.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 2
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 2
Copyright 1995 John Michael Koroly
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