Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
May 2, 2014
Passion is just too intense for some people. That’s true of the emotion – and the musical.
Stephen Sondheim’s penetrating, intimate 1994 rhapsody is all about love – of the protective, clandestine and obsessive sorts.
Giorgio loves warm and beautiful Clara, and she loves him. But she’s married, and won’t leave her husband and child. Fosca is cold and unattractive, mentally unstable and given to hysterical seizures. But when she sets her sights on – and digs her claws into – Giorgio, her manipulative adoration somehow becomes his new definition of pure, unalloyed love.
The fragmentary, recurring musical motifs comprise one of Sondheim’s most lush and romantic scores, equaled in emotional ferocity by James Lapine’s minimalist book.
This is inflamed, hothouse sensation. Tiny ion theatre gives the show a claustrophobic fervor that suits the feverish sentiment of the story, based on a novel and film by Iginio Tarchetti .
Set mostly in a provincial military outpost in late 19th century Italy, the piece explores the vagaries of the human heart, with a love triangle of shifting alliances that expands to include an overprotective cousin, a meddling doctor, and a chorus of derisive soldiers, mired in tedium, relishing the juicy distraction.
Under the astute and disciplined direction of Kim Strassburger , an outstanding cast brings warmth, humor and an escalating sense of dread to this disturbing tale of unhealthy attachments. We may not like these characters, but we can certainly identify with them. Who among us hasn’t loved or been loved by the wrong person, and suffered as a result?
As the ashen, bloodless Fosca , Sandy Campbell sings with fearsome ardor. The hopelessness and heaviness of her dispirited personality is the antithesis of Katie Whalley’s luminous Clara. Between them is Jason Heil’s Giorgio, a good-hearted soul, nearly destroyed by trying to do the right thing.
The wonderful voices, excellent musical accompaniment, suggestive set and illustrative costumes contribute to this outstanding production, a San Diego premiere.
If you succumb to “Passion,” you’ll be swept away.
“Passion” runs through May 10, at ion theatre.
©2014 PAT LAUNER