Eric Overmyer has adapted Amphitryon, as its program states, after Kleist, by way of Molière and with a little bit of Giraudoux thrown in. (What happened to Cole Porter? Oh, never mind.)
Overmyer's jokey, slapstick, anachronistic, and sometimes witty adaptation of the classic Greek farce of mistaken identities and sexual prowess, while betraying its tangle of origins, does have moments of sublime lunacy. But whatever the racy possibilities of his script, they were muted by a surprisingly bland and chaste production under Rachel Wood's curiously stiff direction. Wood never seemed sure enough of herself to go far enough with any one idea that would establish a consistent tone or manner, and her direction had an annoying habit of pulling back from itself just when it was poised to go gloriously over the top. Moments that should have been side-splittingly merry blasts in the never-ending battles between the sexes were disappointingly flat and only intermittently funny; potentially hilarious bits of staging were lost in a sea of trendy but empty ideas that were never followed through with enough conviction to land the laughs that could, and should, have lifted her production into the heavens.
Further disappointments were provided by lackluster performances from a cast that seemed to be all about self-involved ACTING rather than being; hampered by tentative movement, garbled speech, and stock characterizations, most of the performers gave new meaning to the term "head trip." Only Trevor Jones, as an endearingly pompous Amphitryon, Dennis McNitt in a variety of small roles, and Garret Savage as a commandingly sexy Jupiter rose above the surrounding mediocrity and delivered first-class performances full of detail and life - they instinctively knew what was called for and provided it with an unstinting flair. McNitt, in particular, was inspired in each of his well-defined turns, nailing each and every one of his effortlessly well-deserved laughs with contagious glee.
Sidney Shannon's costumes - togas and the like emblazoned with the logos of current fashion trendsetters like DKNY, Boss, Diesel, etc - were a witty take on traditional Greek-farce costume ideology and identified personalities with pin-point accuracy, and Sarah Jakubasz lit the production with a clarity that belied the limited number of instruments at her disposal. WT McCrae's set was coolly attractive and finished with a refreshing attention to detail. Yet despite its elegance, it defined nearly everything that was wrong with the production. As the audience filed into the auditorium, the back wall was open to reveal a lovely burst of blue sky and pink tinted clouds. But when the doors closed and the dull gray stones of a palace courtyard became the dominant visual, nearly everything succumbed to a monochromatic lack of flavor. Every once in a while, the doors would open again to reveal that tantalizing glimpse of color, akin to the tantalizing moments that, however elusively, revealed the possibilities of the production itself, possibilities that unhappily remained unrealized for most of its rather long two hours.
(Also featuring Claire Alpern, Doretta Berry, Diana DeLaCruz, Justin Krauss, and John Miller.)
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Copyright 2002 Doug DeVita