Monday, March 26, 2007

Review - Dream of a Common Language (3Graces Theater Company)

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

3Graces Theater Company is committed to “exposing and exploring the power of women’s experiences through theater.” Not only have they chosen an excellent vehicle, Heather McDonald’s powerful Dream of a Common Language, but they have created an outstanding production.

Dream of a Common Language tells the story of husband and wife painters, Clovis (Annie McGovern) and Victor (Kerry Watterson). Both are Academy trained. Both are dedicated to their art. But only one is male, and in late-19th century Paris, that is all that matters. Clovis’s art is viewed as trivial, and indeed, so is she. Even Victor, who obviously loves and cherishes her, is blinded by his view of what constitutes ‘serious’ art. Things come to a head during a dinner party attended by several other artists, including the free-spirited Pola (Suzanne Barbetta) and the serious Marc (Ian Christiansen). When the women are banished to the garden so the men can plan their next show, Clovis is pushed to the edge. She stands up for her art and for herself, finally making Victor realize the frustration she is forced to live with every day at the hands of men like Marc and him.

The production is outstanding, from Mandy Hart’s wonderful sets to the music performed by musicians Chip Barrow and Zsaz Rutkowski, who remain onstage throughout the play. Director Karen Sommers lets the play build slowly, drawing the audience in, until they become engrossed in the story. She makes good use of Hart’s deep, multi-leveled set, and designer Anjeanette Stokes’ lighting to create beautiful stage pictures. And she is blessed with a wonderful cast.

McGovern’s Clovis is a remarkable woman, full of self-doubt and longing, but obviously talented, even if the world doesn’t recognize it. Watterson’s Victor is protective of his wife, yet dismissive, at times forgetting that she is flesh and blood and not an inanimate object to be painted. The two are marvelous together; their interaction in the moving final scene of the play is heartbreaking.

This was my first experience with 3Graces. Given the outstanding choice of material, the meticulous attention to the production values, and the superb acting, it will not be my last.

Written by Heather McDonald
Directed by Karen Sommers
Live Music by Chip Barrow and Zsaz Rutkowski
Original Music Composed by Chip Barrow and John D. Ivy
Set Design: Mandy Hart
Lighting Design: Anjeanette Stokes
Costume Design: Veneda Truesdale
Sound Design: John D. Ivy
Choreography: Dorothy Abrahams
Technical Director: Patrick T. Cecala II
Production Manager: Pamela D. Roberts
Assistant Stage Manager: Uys DeBoisson
Dramaturgs: Kathleen Bishop, Patrick T. Cecala II, Annie McGovern

Featuring Suzanne Barbetta (Pola), Ian Christiansen (Marc), Kelli Lynn Harrison (Dolores), David Kahn (Mylo), Annie McGovern (Clovis), Kerry Watterson (Victor)

Hudson Guild Theater
85 E. 4th Street

March 16-April 6
Mon., Thurs., Fri., Sat.: 8 pm
Sun.: 3 pm

Tickets: or 212-279-4200