The Potomac Theatre Project returns to New York with Politics of Passion, a production of three Anthony Minghella shorts from the '80s. As exhibited in his movies, heavy emotion is standard Minghella fare, but these playlets are the theatrical equivalent of a culinary amuse bouche-a small bite of food before the real meal begins: amusing but light on impression.
Reviewed by Cindy Pierre
Believe it or not, the screenwriter for such movies as The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain once dabbled in the theatrical arts, penning the one-act plays from the '80s that comprise Politics of Passion. Presented by The Potomac Theatre Company as its first seasonal effort in New York since 1986, Politics of Passion is a collection of Anthony Minghella's musings on love, responsibility and earnestness. However, whether short on thought completion or short on running time, each are commentaries rather than full explorations of their given subjects.
Hang Up, the first one-act of the evening, involves a phone conversation between a couple distant in emotion and location. The piece is staged with Lauren Turner Kiel (She) perched atop a ladder, giving the charming actress a visual upper hand that mimics her character's power in the relationship. Hang up deliberates over themes of romantic possession and dysfunction, but does so with gray dialogue that MacLeod Andrews (He) peppers with flavor.
Truly, Madly, Deeply, a snippet from the movie of the same title, intersects Hang Up's ending with the energetic performance of Julia Proctor (Nina) and Michael Wrynn Doyle (Mark). Putting the hypothetical into action, the play ponders the possibility of summarizing one's essence in the time it takes to hop from one block to the next. However, this piece has no real beginning or end, and the romance at its conclusion seems contrived.
The final piece, Cigarettes and Chocolate, is the meatiest of the evening both in running time and in substance. Cassidy Freeman plays Gemma, the protagonist who decides to stop speaking, with control and sensitivity. The decision dumbfounds, enrages, and saddens her friends and boyfriend. The cast of this piece deserves applause overall, particularly since they overcome director Cheryl Faraone's choice to have them emote as Gemma listens to their recorded voice messages. Also a poor choice is to have the cast of seven present onstage at all times, enabling the fluidity of scene changes but making the actors look like sitting ducks until they are active in a scene. James Matthew Ryan as her boyfriend Rob and Tara Giordano as her friend Lorna are particularly noteworthy as the backstabbers in her life. Although the dialogue is talky and the theme is anything but subtle, Cigarettes and Chocolate does well to demonstrate that silence breeds lucidity and talking can sometimes be unintended gibberish. Not only does Gemma care about social issues in the broader sense, but she also contributes to social awareness within her own microcosm.
Because of the disparity in the running times, Politics of Passion comes off as an uneven presentation of Minghella's mediocre stage work. It is a sincere look at the reflections that preceded his film work, but nothing here, apart from Truly, Madly, Deeply, is a reasonable precursor to his later, epic work.
Through July 14th. Atlantic Stage 2: 330 West 16th Street New York, NY 10011
Tickets: 1-800-838-3006 $18