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SCR (Cost Mesa) Premiere of "The Parisian Woman" Turns Classic Romantic Comedy
|By Joseph Sirota
South Coast Rep (SCR), has opened an electrifying production of playwright Beau Willimon's fictional (but stirringly jarring) tale, The Parisian Woman. At first we get "a comedic sensual peek", into the "trysts" and "affairs" of the upper-classes. This grows into a stronger "suggestion" of "just-what" goes on in highest places amongst the rich, the lawyers, the politicos seeking higher stations, and the coquettish wives and "other-luring-sirens". We're reminded, most intellectually (& bestially...after-all, everyone has their temptations & straying histories along life's roads, they're only human, n'est-pas). Soon we realize the play is calling us to stop being childish, innocents as it's makes clear, that these little strays & trysts are far more numerous, & can be far more important in steering even the powerful "citizens" who shape the very future lives of our towns, country and our futures. So, we're adeptly swept from seemingly just a clever French-Romantic Bedroom Comedy into far darker shadows of powerful unnamed outsiders: friends; families or affairs... maybe steering the Political, Financial, Legal path of Our-World & our Futures right now. Firing human-passion in high-places, sirens who truly use passion most adroitly maybe at the helm, is Dangerous!
Chloe, just such an irresistible "master-siren", is the central character, & core/star of the play. Dana Delany portrays Chloe so very convincingly, radiates such a lifelong-honed magnetic adroitness, she's almost scary in bringing to life, author Willimon's role, as the epitome of alerting us that there just may be Chloe's in the world deciding where we're headed & pressing the buttons as we sleep, unknowingly. Tom, Chloe's husband is also excellently brought to life by Steven Weber. He captures the complexity of a man, happy with his life yet at a stage of life he's tor n by seeing many lesser-by his-rating man around him being "big-Shots" (traditionally) vs. himself. Much of the play's "drive" centers on Chloe & Tom's odd marriage/life styles/values vs. that of their less interesting & less hip friends, who have less going for them by "Bohemian-Lifestyle" measure. But the other couples have more going for them by typical measures of wealth, power, more well-known, parties, etc...(but more boring?). Chloe and her husband Tom are well-educated, fairly well-off, & are luckily in love, more allowing in marital freedoms without anger, and he's a fine trial defense attorney, and she has no interest in working in a job, as her life style weighs personal freedom highly. The "Big-Push" is Tom suddenly WANTING the Big Shot Attorney General political honor, before it's too late. He thinks he's better than the others wanting the Presidential choice, but in fitting into the crowd, he's nowhere near in line to be chosen. When Chloe unleashes her "Secret-Weapon" of no-job no-wealth but, lotsa' unbeatable Magnetic-Passion, she may just get that Top job for her Hubby Tom - "No-Matter-What". Will this work above all others roadblocks? If she & Tom win, will she have ruined her magnetic powers forevermore, because exposing her past subdued powers into LOUD, VISABLE DEMANDS may just have disintegrated her magic, and replaced it with a future of being Loathed for using all her weapons? The play is well worth seeing for yourself and judging what might come next.
The other three actors in the cast are well chosen, very experienced, talented and smartly matched to their roles. Steven Culp takes on the challenging role of Peter, a wealthy man of meaningful power himself, who has fallen prey to Chloe's attraction powers. Culp manages to show near mental pain, & begging, due to "I Can't Live Without You" cycles he's going through as Chloe's marriage gives minimal time for Peter. What adds to his role is Culp's showing flashes of anger, revenge & being fed up, as would be expected of a rich, connected man not used to being treated like a lap-dog. Peter's angry fighting back foretells Chore's exposed powers may indeed run into new enemies.
An interesting character Becky, portrayed by Rebecca Mozo also did a nice portrayal with the right amounts of self the confidence of a star student, backed by powerful parents and ready to tackle her first run for political office, balanced with the fact that she is a young girl who has never run into the likes of a Chloe, who has been polishing her uncanny handling of people for more years and more experiences. Mozo is both a sharp, never failed young person, but also a new player to the likes of someone with the moves of a female cheetah on a life's hunt.
Last, but never, ever least in any role she plays is Linda Gehringer, one of SCR's most active and remarkably diverse actors. Portraying a wise, powerful, about to be, huge Federal Politico herself, Lady G. is perfect as the confident, experienced wise woman of politics, who knows (& spills) all the "inside secrets of everyone around, that no one is supposed to know. But, when she must take the near fatal shock, sprung on her by Chloe's threat that she had best back Chloe's husband Tom...OR ELSE (see why-for-else for yourself), she goes in the fact that she is also the mother of Becky. It stops "Mom" in her feet, almost paralyzing her from the battle, despite her being a battler who never lost.. until now! The scene of Gehringer vs. Delany, should be up for "scene of the year" for Southern California. It is as startling & as memorable as the most intense film of the National Geographic documentaries of a mother Water Buffalo putting her life as offering in a To-the-Death ferocious battle against Hungry, Hunting Lions trying to kill the HER Young Baby Buffalo as food for their family. The scene alone is worth the ticket to this very intellectually and emotionally charged thought provoking play. Lovers of live theater & Live Acting-(up close); Don't Miss This!!
SCR is Highly Lauded for on-stage live, broad program choices, casting, direction, etc.. but they are as Highly Lauded for its Strong -Creative & always effective Production Team that manages to combine the intimacy, close-up feeling with outstanding, sets, lighting, sound, art & any video/ slide combinations. This production is once again, a triumph thanks to the fine Offstage Team: Marion Williams-Scenic Design; Lap Chi Chu-Lighting Design; Cricket S. Myers-Sound Design; David Kay Mickelsen-Costume Design; Sue Karutz-Stage Manager and Kelly L Miller-Dramaturg. Right in the creative-middle, connecting Writer & Cast to Production Values is a great Director-Pam MacKinnon-Brava!
The Parisian Woman: fascinates audiences with deeply probing views of hidden Power Mongers controlling in Politics, Finance & Love.. @ South Coast Rep, 600 Town Ctr Dr, Costa Mesa. Sched: Evenings: Tue-Sun @ 7:45 pm Matinees: Sat-Sun @ 2 pm Closes May 5. Tkts: $20-$70 (stud/teach/snr/grp discount) Phone: (714) 708-5555 or Online: www.scr.org