KPBS AIRDATE: January 25, 2002
It’s a great time for single women…that’s dramatically, not socially speaking. This month, there are four solo female shows in town– two at San Diego Rep, one at the Fritz and one at North Coast Repertory Theatre. Sisters are doin’ it for themselves…
“Angel in Between” and “An Evening with Eleanor” may be widely disparate thematically, focusing on a sexual ambivalent and a former First Lady, but they’re fairly similar in strengths, weaknesses and structure. Both evolve from the historical record. Both feature an unfortunately unseen metamorphosis. Both are magnificent showcases for very talented actors, but in each case, the evening drags and the text is flawed.
The concept for “Angel in Between” evolved from the character of Cherubino in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, a “pants role” in which a female plays and sings a male role. Here, a woman of operatic voice alternates between femme chanteuse and sensitive tough-guy, but the boundaries blur. Sexual identity is slippery. In every incarnation, Roseanne Ciparick is a dream. Her voice is lovely, her acting impressive. Some of Kate Kaminiski’s text is lyrical and lovely. But some is slow, overwrought or repetitive. The sound design is wonderfully evocative of New York, but the initial costume change is interminable. How much more powerful it would be if we witnessed the transformation! The music in this semi-musical is rangy… from a Mozart aria to Daniel Shamir’s darkly atonal, Sondheimian songs, peppered with hip-hop, which actually works best. The images are potent, the performance divine, but ‘drag’ has more than one meaning in this long 70 minutes.
Up at North Coast Rep, the production also plods. Ironically, if we believe the text, derived completely from the words of the intelligent and provocative Eleanor Roosevelt, she’d never go on for 2 1/2 hours. Her motto was, Have something to say, say it and sit down. This retooling of an early, imperfect Lawrence Waddy script, by Rosina Reynolds and Jeannette Horn, tries a new tack, showing the evolution from actor to character, but it doesn’t work, and with the collaborators serving as star and director, there may have been less objectivity than a new script requires. The rehearsal conceit is too timid, and we’re never quite sure who we, the onlookers, are supposed to be. We aren’t really privy to her process, and we don’t see Reynolds become Mrs. Roosevelt; she just rotates the set, puts on pearls and repeats one monologue three unnecessary times. While illuminating the astonishing evolution of Eleanor from wallflower to world power, her devotion to the unfaithful FDR, and perhaps casting a slight, suggestive shadow on her own sexuality, the script jumps back and forth in time, and each act ends abruptly and jarringly. The improvements aren’t… but the performance remains sublime.
©2002 Patté Productions Inc