Tuesday, May 08, 2007
WOW! Mesmerizing LUNACY presented by Dobama at CPH
Every once in a while a theatre-goer sees a play and a performance so stunning that the only word that describes it is mesmerizing. That is the case with Dobama Theatre’s world premiere production of Sandra Perlman’s ‘LUNACY.’
Perlman, a Cleveland playwright, who is a member of the Cleveland Play House’s Playwright’s Unit, and a professor of play writing at Case Western University, has penned a short one and a-half hour play (including a brief intermission), which grabs and holds the audience’s attention. This is a fine script!
Perlman is fortunate that director Mark Alan Gordon has a clear grasp of the necessary mood and pacing the script needs, and a cast that gives flawless performances. With a lesser production, the excellence of the script might not come through as strongly as it does.
‘LUNACY’ takes place in 1827, but its implications are timeless. As written, it concerns Edwin Forrest, a twenty-one year old rising star. His acting specialty is Shakespeare. As he is rehearsing ‘KING LEAR,’ Cornelia Lamb, a young Quaker woman, enters the theatre. As a result of her challenge, Forrest becomes wrapped up in the mystery of why Benjamin, Cornelia’s father, not only thinks he is, but is the perfect Lear.
Questions abound. What makes for a perfect performance of a fictional character? Who is crazy, the person who attempts to portray something he is not, or someone who believes and feels that he is the character? What can we learn about reality from those who are, in fact, lunatics? Is our role in life to seek out the perfect role and then live it until we complete the very last line of the character’s play?
Michael Regnier gives a career high performance as Benjamin Lamb. He doesn’t perform Benjamin, Regnier is Benjamin, and, therefore, the perfect Lear. This is a mind blowing enactment. Wow!!! I only wish I could experience Regnier doing a full-length production of ‘KING LEAR.’
Dan Hammond (Edwin) is Regnier’s near match as an actor. Edwin, early in the play, is trying to learn Lear’s lines. He fights to make the character both real and flawless. As the play develops, so does Edwin’s understanding of Lear. Hammond is wonderful while allowing us to experience his awakening to what a real character development is all about. Another Wow!
The third Wow! is Bernadette Clemens’ sensitive portrayal of Cornelia, Benjamin’s daughter. She gives nuance and texture to the role, thus creating a real person who experiences rather than acts feelings.
Director Mark Alan Gordon has created a near-perfect theatrical image. He is sensitive to the characters’ needs to underplay certain segments and rant in others. He has masterfully worked with the actors to key ideas, and correctly pace scenes.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘LUNACY’ has to be ranked near the very top of shows in this area’s local season of fine productions (‘EQUUS’ at Beck, ‘FAT PIG’ at Bang and Clatter, ‘THE PRICE’ at Ensemble, ‘HAY FEVER’ at GLTF .) ‘LUNACY’ is a go see, a must see, an absolutely don’t miss!