Saturday, February 11, 2006

Flesh and Blood

From: "will stackman"

Subject: Quicktake - "Flesh & Blood" by Peter Gaiten
                 based on a novel by Michael Cunningham

Date:Sat., Feb. 11, 1:08 AM

Quicktake on FLESH AND BLOOD

    Peter Gaiten's reduction of Pulitizer Prize winning novelist Michael Cunningham's novel "Flesh and Blood" for the stage is only sporadically successful. Try as they might, David J. Miller and his cast of eleven actors rarely get beyond the soap opera nature of this family saga, filled with cliche situations and contemporary hot button issues. The playwright's first error was to stick largely to the serial nature of the novel, which traces three generation of an American family which sprung from a poor Greek immigrant and a working class girl from New Jersey. While the scene does expand to include New York, its suburbs, and Boston, it doesn't capture any specific locale. Miller's unit set, as usual well-done and allowing for a fluid presentation given the limitation of the BCA Black Box, is more decorative than necessary and rather than becoming a symbol of the father's aspirations, is more of an interesting obstacle course.

     The father of the Stassos family, Constantine, who came here as a young man, is played by veteran local actor, Robert D. Murphy, who develops a believable character from rather thin soil. Maureen Aducci, as Mary, the mother of the three children whose overlapping fates provide much of the action, has more chance to develop a complex role, and does so with grace, as she's done in past seasons at the Theatre Coop. The showiest part is Cassandra, taken beyond stereotype by Dan Minkle, who finds in this drag-queen/shoplifter with a heart of gold perhaps the production's most intriguing, if still sparse, character. Seen at the Publick in past seasons in roles such as Ajax and often at Ren Faires, Minkle's burly presence combined with bitchy dialogue is a bright spot in the production.

     The children are Susan (Angela Rose), the oldest, with complex sexual issues concerning her father, Mason Sand as Will, aka Billy, who comes out while studying at Harvard, and Zoe (Melissa Baroni), who never grows up and runs off to the Village where she eventually contracts AIDS after fathering an illegitimate black child. Each has enough plot complications and psychological baggage to have a play of their own. This excess results in a long show with very little resolution. Some novels just aren't suitable to transfer to the stage. While "the sins of the father(s)" is a venerable device, in this case it becomes an embarrassment of cliches. The cast, which also includes Claude Del (Jamal), Andrew Dufresne(Todd), Eliza Lay(Magda), Gregory Maraio(Ben), and Achilles Vatrikas(Harry) tries hard and does achieve a number of effective moments as they play themselves--and additional characters--from 1935 to 2035. However, the mixture of partial realism, pop culture sensationalism, and poetic symbolism--as witness the character names--never gels. Still, Zeitgeist makes its usual brave effort at producing a show not likely to get done otherwise hereabouts. Various members of the audience may take home a range of viewpoints from this disjointed family saga, which barely touches on the poltical and social changes during the periods it covers.

"Flesh & Blood" by Peter Gaiten, Feb. 10 - Mar. 4

Zeitgeist Stage Co. at BCA Plaza Black Box

539 Tremont , (617) 933 - 8600
Zeitgeist Stage Co.


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