Amazing Journey

Drama Dispatch: March 8, 2004: 'Wintertime'

Back Stage
March 08, 2004

I had a good time at Charles L. Mee's "Wintertime" at Second Stage. Andrew Leiberman's frost-covered set was a delightful fairy-land confection with pieces of furniture and a fireplace set in a glistening snowbank. We're inside and outside at the same time. The cast was full of joy and fun, ripping into their wildly passionate roles, rolling their eyes and wrapping their tongues around an assortment of attitudes and accents. Director David Schweizer had an equally jolly time putting them through their paces, as they leapt into and out of each other's arms, stripping clothes and slamming doors. But it wasn't much of a play.

Mee's work twists and bends classical formulae into modern shapes, usually on the theme of irrational love. He's previously adapted Greek myths into talkathons that mix elements of soap opera and philosophy lectures. Here he employs the template of romantic comedy (think "A Midsummer Night's Dream" or Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutte"), with four sets of lovers (gay and straight) alternately embracing, bickering, and discoursing on the nature of Eros. The complications preventing amicable unions are silly and much of the action is taken up with long, rambling speeches. It gets especially trying in the second act when the action grinds to a halt for a comic memorial service. Most of the monologues are well delivered and well written, some with tangy details. But they aren't anchored in a deep, consistent reality. It doesn't have to be kitchen-sink realism, but "Wintertime" is too abstract to be absorbing.

There are compensations in the ensemble. Delightful Marylouise Burke has a crabby, fussy voice like a scratchy record. Marsha Mason as an Italian earth mother bubbles with life force like a gorgeous volcano. Michael Cerveris is a cartoon French lout, while Tina Benko is equally absurd as his former lover, a doctor of indeterminate European origin (she might be French since the character's name is Jacqueline, but her accent places her anywhere from the Czech Republic to Hungary). She does get some comic mileage out of the stereotype. Brienin Bryant reinvents the ingénue cliché with zest. Danny Mastrogiorgio is an endearingly goofy deliveryman.

back to Main

Please send any comments about this page and contributions please 
 to  email -