Dear Daughter deals with cycles. Not only how we become the things we most hate in our own parents but how unlived promise becomes just that: unlived promise.
In 10 scenes that span three years, we are plunged into Anne Cunningham (Daniela Iannone)'s world. We meet Anne in 1951 as she shows sketches as a courting device to John (Robert Stevens). Anne's story is simple: she lives with her shrewish mother (Susan Kostalow), and corresponds with her dad, Joseph Cunningham (Bruno Iannone) who is fighting in the Korean War. Anne's mom and dad are divorced and she longs to leave the Bronx and be with her father. Instead she ends up becoming something like her mother by the play's conclusion.
Ms. Cantelli has a strong sense of characterization and situations. Not only do we have Anne's plight but also the father's situation with a hostile army commander (Steve Nielsen). Where the play lacks, however, is in action and logical shifts. We hear so much about Anne's despair, it is ultimately disappointing when she ends up talking about her longing to leave rather than just leaving. Slowly, any compassion toward her turns to frustration. Further there is an illogical gear shift when Joseph kills the commander, Strauss (Steve Nielsen) and there is no real cause and effect: the next scene he is at his home in California, diagnosed with cancer.
The Common Basis Theatre Company offers a strong, emotionally grounded and truthfully acting style in their productions, and this was no exception. Ms. Iannone was an emotionally full and radiant Anne. Mr. Iannone lent vulnerability that makes Joseph's more-savage moments all the more disturbing. Ms. Kostalow as Anne's mother added edge and immediacy to Anne's situation. Barbara English was a sweet if not cautious Dot (Joseph's new wife). Mr. Stevens conveyed John's romantic spark, and his ultimate disappointment, with commanding force. Mr. Nielsen was both annoying and menacing as Strauss. Robert Haufrecht is a comic marvel as Dean, Joseph's army buddy. Harry Dean Ackman was sensual and commanding as the jilted Louie, and Robert Garcia was a wonderfully baffled Larry, Anne's younger brother.
Marcia Haufrecht directed with expert attention to detail and
underscored Dear Daughter with much emotion and honesty,
even when the play is at moments less than par. The uncredited
sets and lighting was serviceable and the '50s costumes adequate.
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Copyright 1999 Andrès J. Wrath