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Alliance Theatre Company1
7 Stages1
Average Rating Given : 3.50000
Reviews in Last 6 months :
REVIEWS

Boston Marriage, by David Mamet
BOSTON MARRIAGE
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
4.0
7 Stages presents a well-acted, lovingly staged production of a minor David Mamet work. While it lacks some of the emotional complexities of Mamet's more well-known works, as an evening of entertainment this play serves nicely. Shelly McCook is particularly strong as Anna, with ample voice to match a sweeping and confident portrayal. Mary Emily O'Bradovich complements McCook with a subtler, wholly endearing portrayal of a woman in flux. Katie Merritt registers strongly as the Maid in this far-above average entertainment. Set was beautiful-- an admirable use of a challenging, small space. Highly recommended.

The Color Purple, by Marsha Norman M/L Brenda Russell, Allee Willis & Stephen Bray
THE COLOR PURPLE
Sunday, September 26, 2004
3.0
Examining THE COLOR PURPLE at this stage in its development is difficult. Although certainly not yet where it needs to be to suceed in a prolonged Broadway run, the production does more right than wrong and is simply too far along in its development to allow for the one thing it really needs: a new composer. Its not that the music in THE COLOR PURPLE is bad, per se; in fact, several numbers in Act Two are quite good. The problem instead lies in the particular challenges of adapting Alice Walker's idiosyncratic novel for the stage. Perhaps writers with more theatrical know-how would have devised a stronger means of placing what is essentially a series of letters to G-d onto the lyric stage. Transparent pop ballads and gospel numbers, while sometimes hummable, do too little in the way of bringing the audience into Celie's world.

We should take a moment, however, to acknowledge that there is quite a bit to admire in THE COLOR PURPLE. There is LaChanze's lyrical, blistering performance, a lush physical production, a whopper of a story, and that joyous title tune. Indeed, one suspects that this sprawling story could find a passionate following in New York and elsewhere. To ensure that audience members give the show a fair shot, however, the creators must ensure that they remain beyond intermission.

Celie's journey- at least the latter half, after she's met Shug- works better for the musical stage than one might have imagined. The main problem, however, is that the first act is so heavy with exposition that it is both hard to follow and difficult to sit through. By the time LaChanze's Celie takes her place at the musical's center, a good fifteen minutes have passed. By that point, the audience has already been separated from the action. We see things happen to characters we might like, but we never feel attached to them. As the novel works primarily as Celie's own narrow telling of her family's story, it seems both odd and suspicious that the musical chooses to open without Celie's voice at center stage.

The creators need to have more faith in the power of the novel and focus less on the sentimental film version. They need to start the musical off differently, so that Celie begins to tell her story to the audience. It will keep the audience involved and allow the creators greater latitude in putting forth the endless stream of admittedly necessary exposition.

Act Two, however, is a much different story. Once Celie learns of Nettie's survival and journey to Africa, the musical takes wing. Brenda Russell's score is much more ecelctic (production number, gospel, African chant, some pop), and the actors do a much better job with their characters once they've begun the journey. As a broken bird finally learning to fly, LaChanze is wonderful in the second act, but needs some clarity from Marsha Norman in the first. Felicia Fields is great as the strong-willed Sofia and Adrian Lennox is a welcome presence as Shug, though a new first entrance is required. Kinsey Legg's Albert is hit-or-miss. The actor is clearly capable of playing the role, with a strong voice and genuine sweetness in the closing scenes. But he must become a much more daunting presence in the first act, or Celie's pain will remain at the surface as it does now.

Director Gary Griffin and his creators must take this note as well. Theatre is a communal experience and the PURPLE creators must never forget this. As audience members, we go to the theatre not to witness another's journey, but to take our own. If the creators of THE COLOR PURPLE want audience members to cheer the musical for years to come, they need only invite us on the journey.

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