Dispatch: March 8, 2004: 'Wintertime'
March 08, 2004
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.
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