Freudian slip

Dear Vienna

By Catherine Allen
Directed by Julie Hamberg
Vital Theatre Company
McGinn Cazale Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Elias Stimac

Dear Vienna was a theatrical triumph on all counts. Lovingly delivered by the Vital Theatre Company at its latest venue above the Promenade in the McGinn Cazale Theatre, the writing, staging, acting, and design elements came together to form a unified whole, and the results were positively enlightening. It did not take the Vital folks very long to make their new house a home.

The setting is, of course, Vienna, and the time is 1881. The historical details presented in Catherine Allen’s play may be fictionalized, but everything seems to make perfect sense -- young Sigmund Freud, recently out of medical school, decides to pursue his passion for playwriting, despite an apparent lack of talent.

While Freud (Ross Beschler) frets about getting his mysterious -- and minimal -- "masterwork" produced, everyone he comes into contact with has designs on the property for their own personal or political gain. The group includes an ambitious editor of a radical newsletter (G.R. Johnson), who is so interested in meeting the young Freud that he makes a pact with an obnoxious philosophy writer (Ron McClary). Their agreement leads the trio to the drawing room of a flamboyant former actress, Countess LaBerge (Judith Hawking), who desires to win the lead in the play -- that is, until she reads it. Also popping in and out of the action are the Countess’s current flame (Tug Coker) and her sensible French maid (Jessi Gotta).

Each of these characters ends up confronting or manipulating each other, all the while leading naïve Freud to develop illusions of grandeur about his play to the point where he ponders his imminent success in the theatre world. Only when he discovers how many ways he has been duped does Freud switch career goals back to psychological pursuits.

Allen’s script is feasible, flirty, foolish, and lots of fun, and Julie Hamberg maintained just the right balance of seriousness and buffoonery. The cast members were excellent in their over-the-top roles, each getting their turn in the spotlight. And the technical accomplishments are impressive, including the set by Brandon Matthews, Vanessa Leuck’s costumes, lighting by Caroline Yacono, and sound design by Frank Pisco.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2004 Elias Stimac