According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Anais Nin – One of Her Lives by Nancy Vitale

Anais Nin, one of the most enigmatic writers of the twentieth century, epitomized the "feminine mystique" in her work. But to penetrate the personal mystery of the prolific diarist, writer/director Wendy Beckett attempts with varying success to uncover the drama that provoked Nin's musings. In an elegantly understated production of an overwritten text, Anais Nin – One of Her Lives takes us into the exciting world out of which some of the century's most provocative writing about sexuality sprang.

Beckett approaches the woman who captured the imagination and ignited the libidos of so many readers through an appropriately Freudian lens. In the opening dreamlike moment, gaudily accented by Robin A. Paterson's lighting, young Anais – the lovely Angela Christian – clings to the memory of a father who abandoned her, sparking an imaginative fire in the young artist. Her unresolved relationship with her father, as illusive as a god to her, becomes the key to unlocking her troubled development throughout the play.

When next we meet Anais, she is lecturing amidst the artistic and ideological decadence of 1930s Paris. She expresses her need to create uniquely female work and encourages the female artist to "find her own language, articulate her own feelings, discover her own perceptions" as she strives to do. In attendance is Henry Miller, played with sexy bravado by David Bishins, who instantly captures Anais' interest with his unapologetically abrasive manner. "Delicacy," he temptingly growls at her, "meet violence."

Although Henry moves Anais, it is his constant obsession and wife June, saucily captured by the statuesque Alysia Reiner, who undermines the writers' platonic bond. She quickly claims Anais as her lover and creates a predictable emotional ménage-a-trois.

Tortured by her conflicting passions and unable to find consolation in her writing, Anais turns to psychoanalysis from Dr. Rank, the self-consciously stiff Rocco Sisto, who also doubles in the role of deadbeat dad. Her sessions with the doctor provoke a more dangerous fantasy of her father, after which Anais exorcises him from her psyche like a demon and is able to physically consummate her relationship with Henry.

Henry's love for Anais suffocates June, and she returns to New York, but Anais, too, feels the pressure of Henry's need to possess her. Determined to focus on her "woman's work" she separates herself from Henry. But Beckett's ending is just a little too neat.

Beckett's inability to reconcile the sloppiness of life with the precision of art expresses the attraction audiences have to Nin's work. But fitting such goals into a play presents a dramatic challenge. The moments that best capture the spirit of Nin's work by attempting to directly express her feelings – i.e., those that take place in Dr. Rank's office – are the most uninteresting dramatically and are painfully overwritten. Those that are the most active, including the two very well-staged sex scenes, pull the audience away from the focus of the piece.

Ultimately Beckett presents an unfocused portrait of a budding artist, who takes the long path filled with desire, desolation and self-destruction to create the work that will bring her the most satisfaction.

Anais Nin – One of Her Lives
Presented by Pascal Productions
Theatre Row, Beckett Theatre
August 5th – 26th nin.htm

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