How many people are willing to take on the responsibility of setting up and running a full fledged repertory company in today’s fragile New York theatrical environment? Two. Their names are Amy Estes and Lenny Leibowitz. Bravo!
Mr. Leibowitz is also directing the four plays scheduled in the first season of the Marvell Repertory Company which has just opened at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex 312 West 36 Street – 1st floor with Nora by Ingmar Bergman and In the Shadow of the Glen by John M. Synge. You might think it a strange combination. That is until you see them.
There are similarities. Both plays have a character named Nora. Both women are frustrated by the control held over them by their husbands. And both leave through a door looking to improve their lot in life.
Nora is adapted from Ibsen’s A Doll’s House famous for being one of the earliest feminist plays that most probably shocked audiences when performed in 1879. The 1981 adaptation by Mr. Bergman does not improve upon the story. Nor the play. His version is shorter and some characters have been excised. The exposition comes swiftly and all seems somewhat truncated, abrupt and condensed with the basic story remaining intact. Secrets abound to almost melodramatic effect.
The many scenes require set changes that intrude on the flow although they are necessary. The very intimate space makes it difficult for Mr. Leibowitz to maneuver his actor’s entrances and exits smoothly. But the actors must all be commended for their individual skills.
Nora (Allison McLemore) has a striking presence, wears her period costumes well and seems in control until her secret past catches up with her and she begins to unravel – a woman on the verge. When finally she stands up to her husband Torvald (an immensely likable Chris Kipiniak) deciding to leave him and her children in a fiery confrontation we side with the once flirty spendthrift. Her friend Mrs. Linde (Eileen Ward) has her own past relationship problems with Krogstad (Sean Gormley) and their own secrets to unveil. Dr. Rank (Marc Geller) gets short shrift here and his relationship with Nora and reason for being there and then leaving remain vague.
Sean Gormley and Eileen Ward fare much better in second play where her gorgeous red hair and Irish brogue add to the great atmosphere created and where Mr. Gormley’s accent (which ebbs and flows in Nora) is welcomed here and used to full effect.
In The Shadow of the Glen has Dan (a terrific William Metzo) appearing to be dead to the world in bed when a tramp (Sean Gormley) comes a knocking for refuse out of the rain. Nora, Dan’s much younger wife (Eileen Ward) is tired of him and welcomes his death. Only he isn’t. They discover this comically when Michael (a delightful Brian J. Carter) asks for her hand in marriage. It’s a charming one act play which leaves you with the promise of more good things ahead for this new repertory company.
Marvell Rep is a work in progress and needs to be nurtured. They are taking on a monumental challenge and need to be encouraged. They are off to a fine start. I am looking forward to seeing Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lora and The Dybbuk by S. Ansky.
22 Actors 6 Weeks 4 Plays – in rotating repertory – February 18 – April 3, 2011.
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