Jason Katz as Methuselah struggled to amuse, both bewigged (quite poorly) as an ancient, and sans wig as a contemporary--a theatrical conceit never convincingly explained. Old or young, Katz played his smarmy hero as a man who could betray God Himself just to stay alive 20 minutes longer. With humor such as ``Ham, Shem, and Curly'' for Biblical sons' names, Mr. Katz struggled mostly in vain. Of course he who straddles two characterizations while sliding down a theatrical razor blade cannot expect to be intact when reaching bottom. But Katz did good work as a rock artist sprechstimming pointless lyrics.
Erin Kelley as Methuselah's hapless wife gave the most interesting performance. She showed real pathos and real affection for her doltish husband. The play was far beneath her considerable talents.
Dan Leventritt, an out-of-shape Ted Danson, played a kind of Dr. Death. He not only ate the scenery, he actually banged into it.
Mira Kingsley and Julia Martin as ``Handmaiden (blonde hair)'' and ``Handmaiden (red hair)'' mostly danced and chanted their roles and were always interesting to watch. Kingsley's long and gorgeous tresses were well worth the extra program credit.
The director's staging skills outshone his dramaturgy. For example, he choreographed the Handmaidens' hands quite handsomely.
David Maxine's set, which illustrated a sense of chronology as whimsical as The Skin of Our Teeth, was ugly, but well-thought-out.
John Hudak's sound effects turned on and off obtrusively, and the lighting effect to simulate Hiroshima was very makeshift. But the (uncredited) costumes were quite adequate.
The author sought, with sturm, drang, and a kitchen sink or two, to infuse life into a 969-year-old moribund character, extending his mortality to three millennia or more by making him witness to the Flood, the Plague, the salt pillars of Sodom and Gomorrah, the glory of Delphi, the grandeur of Pompeii, de Falla's ``Ritual Fire Dance,'' and the Second World War....
...Among other things--such as an orgy scene, with Methuselah gobbling grapes his wife dangled overhead--which led to the play's most compellingly suspenseful question: when would one of the five actors step on one of the seven grapes that dropped on the floor? The answer came near the end, as one of the Handmaidens rose slowly (having just perished in an atomic bomb blast) with one perfect grape squished flat against her lovely, bare back. As for the burning question--whether or not Methuselah survived after the lights faded out--such things were left to the audience's overly -- yet really underly -- stimulated imagination.
Copyright 1997 Marshall Yaeger
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