Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Somewhere In Time

"Mary Rose" at the Vineyard Theatre, March 13, 2007

J. M. Barrie's final play, first performed in 1920 arrives at the Vineyard in a lovely production directed by Tina Landau. Several analyses have been published about relationship of this play to Mr. Barrie's first stage effort, "Peter Pan" pondering the child-like nature of the title character and how it relates to the experiences in Mr. Barrie's life. It's a tender and delicate ghost story.

In brief, the play centers on Mary Rose, a young English woman who makes two fateful visits to a mysterious island in the Hebrides, first as a child and again ten years later having recently married and borne her first child. Ms. Landau has taken a further step to bring Mr. Barrie's stage directions and other character descriptions into the play with a narrator, played by Keir Dullea, tracking along as a handsome John McMartin doppelganger.

As the title character, Paige Howard delights in the child-like qualities of Mary Rose. She hops and skips every time she crosses the stage. Her performance in Mary's happy moments are where she shines. When Mary is confused or feeling lost, Ms. Howard tends to get a little lost herself and fails to bring the empathy needed in these scenes.

As her husband Simon Blake, Darren Goldstein is at first a perfect ninny, quite proud to have make a sudden bit of growth into solemnity and maturity on the day he proposes to Mary. He enjoys a nice bit of banter with Mr. Cameron (Ian Brennan), the Scottish guide who brings them for Mary's second visit to the island. Mr. Brennan gets a bit of deadpan fun here with a poke or two at Simon's expense. "I admire you, Mr. Blake. Not so much for your learning - - the English have always done without that."

As Mary's parents, Betsy Aidem and Michael Countryman create a warm and loving pair who would protect their child at all costs. Mr. Morland has a couple of nice moments with Mr. Amy, the local parson (Tom Riis Farrell) in the first and third acts, repeating what seems to be a weekly bit of one-upmanship leading into a brief spat followed by heartfelt apologies on both parts for such poor behavior.

Richard Short plays Harry, the grown child of Mary Rose and Simon. He's returned to the family property after spending most of his life in Australia. Mr. Short appeared a bit young to be a man of 30 with a couple of years of warfare behind him. Beyond that and an inconsistent Aussie accent, he makes an earnest attempt to bring believability to his role.

James Schuette settings give the flavor of rural England, as well as the island. Kevin Adams' lighting provide just the right bit of mystery when it is called for. Michael Krass' costumes also bring the air of the period.

Director Tina Landau has done a lovely job with this revival. It's sweet, tender, and at times unsettling.

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