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.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Philanderer

A womanizer gets caught between two very different women in this feisty and entertaining production of Shaw's gender-bending and socially critical comedy.

Photo by LAB Photography

Reviewed by Cindy Pierre

With the house seats right on the modest stage, any audience member is in a prime location to see the grimaces and false smiles bandying about in Theater Ten Ten's production of The Philanderer. And it's a good thing too because the cast's overexaggeration of gestures and body movements is exactly what will keep you laughing giddily. George Bernard Shaw's comedy about the evolution of relationships is great fun in the hands of a talented cast that is committed to authenticity, airs, and most pronouncedly, great diction.

With a delivery and tone that sometimes channels Family Guy's Stewie, you'll be able to detect other signs of immaturity in Julian Stetkevych's Leonard Charteris. Jumping from Julia Craven (Tatiana Gomberg), a wealthy and impetuous young woman, to Grace Tranfield (Anne Gill), a wiser, more subdued mate, Charteris delights in choosing promiscuity over marriage and lies over truth until his games turn Julia into a lovesick puppy.

Like The Philanderer's overly rapid pace in the beginning, Charteris does a lot of fast talking to escape committing to either woman, even though Grace, as a “new woman” who is advanced in her strong manner and elevated mind, is more his match. However, you wouldn't think so at first. Wearing an ill-fitting costume and locked in an amorous embrace with Charteris, Grace first appears to be the fleshly character that Julia turns out to be, but as the play progresses, her wit becomes evident. Despite Charteris' attempts to shake Julia at every turn, Stetkevych's zaniness plays well off of Gomberg's petulance, and one can't help but wonder why he won't make it work.

In addition to this lust triangle, there's a gaggle of philosophical heavyweights milling about the Ibsen (Henrik) Club, trying to one up each other while putting their two cents in about the trio's situation. There's Sylvia Craven (Barrie Kreinik), Julia's delightfully cheeky sister who pokes fun at everything and everyone. Their father, Colonel Daniel Craven (Greg Horton), thinks he's dying from a disease that Dr. Paramore (Mickey Ryan) diagnoses him with, but this storyline is far from morose. As the Colonel, Horton elicits more laughs naturally than anyone. Joseph Cuthbertson (Duncan Hazard), the Colonel's rival/friend, is spry and comfortable both as the center of attention and on the fringe of a scene. The Page (Shauna Horn), an unnecessary character, floats in periodically with announcements and deliveries.

Like many of Shaw's plays, The Philanderer executes biting and clever social commentary under the veneer of humor. Under Leah Bonvissuto's sharp direction, the whole cast flexes their acting muscles almost as if in a competition, but there's great, lively interaction between them even if it's sometimes at the expense of chemistry. Although four acts are excessive for 105 minutes, the set changes are smooth. If only gender and social relations were the same.

The Philanderer (1 hr, 45 min with 1 intermission)
Theater Ten Ten (1010 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10028)
Tickets: $20 212-352-3101 or 866-811-4111(toll free)
Through March 15, 2009

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