Sunday, November 11, 2007


Weak Inge play gets equally weak production at Ensemble

‘A LOSS OF ROSES,’ now on stage at Ensemble Theatre, was William Inge’s least successful plays. In contrast to such hits as his Pulitzer Prize winning ‘PICNIC,’ ‘COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA,’ ‘BUS STOP’ and ‘DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS, which many consider to be his most significant play, ‘A LOSS OF ROSES’ was a failure on Broadway. It ran only 25 performances and earned the nickname, “A Loss of Grosses.”

Inge, who was a troubled soul, was one of the three most heralded modern era playwrights who dominated the dramatic theatre scene in the 1950s and 60s. Arthur Miller asked, “What’s the best way to live?” Tennessee Williams showcased people who found themselves in places and situations they didn’t understand and in relationship with people who didn’t understand them. Inge looked for the shadows and darkness of life.

‘A LOSS OF ROSES’ is a poignant story, but, unfortunately, it touches on so many themes that it doesn’t develop any of them well. It is talky, unfocused and drenched with symbolism and metaphoric layers. The motivations of its characters are often unclear. Part of this may have been Inge’s own psychological confusion. A closeted homosexual, he fought his “demons” for years, finally committing suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning in 1973 at the age of 60.

The story concerns a relationship between a mother (Helen), whose husband drowned trying to save their son Kenny, and the son. She claims to love him, but wants to have him become more independent. He wants to give her everything, but resents her authority and feels tied down. When Lila, an actress and the boy’s former baby sitter, comes to stay, a new factor enters the equation. Kenny is boiling with unbridled hormones, and Lila is beautiful, open and charming. The darkness in each of them hangs over their heads and the ending leaves each disappointed.

Ensemble’s production, under the direction of Bernard Canepari, doesn’t do much to help the script’s weaknesses. The pacing is slow, the tensions not totally developed, and many of actors have difficulty developing clear characterizations.

Only Jason Markouc, as the son, textures his character well. His angst, frustration, confusion and rudderless existence are clear. Amy Pawlukiewicz as Lila, the actress and former baby sitter, has some good moments, but just isn’t consistent. Her scenes with Markouc lack sexual tension. In fact, the major kissing scene between the two found no smolder, their lips not even squarely meeting and their bodies unengaged.

Julia Kolibab, as Helen, has some good moments, but at times loses her believability. Robert M. K. Daniels, as the next door neighbor and Douglas Kusask, the supposedly domineering “bad guy,”never develop clear characterizations and are unbelievable. Dorothy Canepari does well in a brief appearance as a faded actress.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Between a weak script and very amateur production qualities, Ensemble’s production of ‘A LOSS OF ROSES,’ is a less than satisfying theatrical experience.