Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Silver Cord

"The Silver Cord" presented by  Peccadillo Theater Company at the Theatre at St. Clement's, June 8, 2013

(Photo by Carol Rosegg)

A tradition of restorative productions is a sometimes unwieldy proposition.  Peccadillo Theater Company continues its residence at the Theatre at St. Clement's with a revival of the 1927 The Silver Cord by Sidney Howard (who won a posthumous Oscar for the screenplay of "Gone With The Wind).  The Silver Cord was something of a hit in its original run, telling the story of how a sociopathic moher interferes in the relationships of her two sons. 
There are obvious factors to support its revival: small cast, minimal costume and set changes.  Before staging this full production, Peccadillo conducted a reading of the play with Charles Busch as the mother. 

If only they had been able to sign him for this run.

Mrs. Phelps' (Dale Carman) two sons David (Thomas Matthew Kelley) and Robert (Wilson Bridges) dote on and adore their widowed mother, who makes the Dance Moms look like Donna Reed.  Robert is engaged to Hester (Caroline Kaplan) and David has already married Christina (Victoria Mack) during his European grand tour.  David arrives home shortly after his honeymoon and mother is out to maintain her claim of dominance over both sons' lives and relationships.  What ensues is a series of uncomfortable manipulation and self-aggrandizing ploys to drive the new women from their lives.

Despite a lovely, if awkward set (Harry Feiner), the ill-humored melodrama stumbles through two and a half hours of actors desperate to make sense of this creaky and uncomfortable play. 
Some find more success than others.  Costume designer Gail Cooper-Hecht manages to evoke the era on a typical off-Broadway tight budget.

Ms. Mack's Christina achieves a level of balance between the stilted language and manner of the period, and any relevance one might find in the dated situation. Ms. Kaplan's Hester also maintains a level of humanity as she sees herself becoming the forerunner of the Stepford Wives.  Messrs. Kelley and Bridges don't find much beyond the two-dimensional pages from which their characters spring.  Mr. Carman fails to channel his inner Lady Bracknell and leaves us with a Mrs. Phelps who is annoying at best, and forgettable at worst.

One can find some blame for all this in the dated and apparently untouched script from Mr. Howard.  The balance of blame falls to director Dan Wackerman for not bringing any sense of relevance to the dysfunctional family presented.  I won't dignify the scene in David's bedroom with any further description than to say, "ugh."

The Silver Cord runs through July 14.  Tickets are available here.

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