Saturday, January 19, 2008

Orange Flower Water

Bang & Clatter’s ‘ORANGE FLOWER WATER, theatre at its best

Craig Wright, the author of ‘ORANGE FLOWER WATER,’ now being performed by The Bang and The Clatter, writes plays about people in families, people who question the course of their lives. He is a very talented writer. His ‘THE PAVILION’ was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His HBO series, “Six Feet Under,” was critically acclaimed.

In “ORANGE FLOWER WATER,’ he delves into the lives of two couples who, for many years, have each given the illusion of being happy. Unfortunately, the facade is a fraud. The charade comes to a head when one member of each couple unite in an adulterous affair. Through a series of scenes which take place around and in a single bed, which represents various beds, we watch as four lives unravel. Questions arise. What will happen to the children? Was the affair a mistake or a necessary intrusion to bring about needed changes? Was the action the pursuit of selfishness or a search for personal happiness? Will the results be like the fragrance of orange flower water, sweet but overpowering?

This is a raw, painful and graphic tale. It is a challenging play which forces us to ask, “In the end, is a happy ending worth the pain?

B&G’s production, under the well defined direction of Sean McConaha, is compelling. The pacing is appropriately precise, the acting performances well-honed and the idea development clear.

Jean Klika (Beth) is excellent as the wife of a controlling, abusive husband. The actress has several monologues in which the character comes close to nervous breakdowns. Each is done with realism and elicits compassion.

Daniel McElhaney (Brad) is properly vile as Beth’s controlling husband. He paces the stage like a caged tiger, about to attack. He transforms himself into a character whom the audience comes to hate.

Teresa McDonough, as the uptight Kathy, draws sympathy as the perfectly organized mother and wife who is put upon by a husband who cannot accept her version of life and love. Her librarian glasses, coifed hair and prim clothing create the perfect visual image for her ice lady emotions.

Mark Mayo creates a completely etched character as David, the pharmacist who wants to escape his present life, but has an unrealistic view of the consequences that will be wrought by his pursing a married woman.

Written with assurance and constructed with drama and humor, the play is emotionally wrenching. The tribute to both the script and the production was the reverent silence at the play’s conclusion. There was nary an audible sound after the lights went off signally the end. When, after an appropriate pause, the lights came on, the audience was brought back to the reality of being in the theatre, and gave the performers a hearty ovation.

Capsule judgment: Bravo B&G! ‘ORANGE FLOWER WATER’ is a not-to-be-missed production. It should stimulate long discussions and encourage a replay in the viewer’s mind, long after the final bows. (Be aware that the play contains nudity and a sex scene.)