Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Review - The Philanderer (Theater Ten Ten)

Review by Byrne Harrison
Photos by LAB Photography

Leonard Charteris (Julian Stetkevych) is a young man on the make. A truly modern man by turn of the century standards, he refuses to give in to social conventions like marriage and plans to stay happily unattached forever. Having recently taken up with Grace (Anne Gill), a self-assured 'new' woman, who refuses to be the property of any man but is perfectly willing to form a 'charming friendship' with one, he finds himself drawn to her as a true equal, perhaps even his perfect, enlightened mate. Spending their days at the Ibsen Club, a social club for the enlightened, and their evenings at Grace's, Leonard can imagine them being together, in a complementary and equal way, of course, forever.

If only he can do something about Julia (Tatiana Gomberg), his on-again (her choice), off-again (his choice) girlfriend. Jealous and clingy, she watches his every move like a hawk and is prone to scream, cry, and pout until she gets her way. A petty little girl, she is the exact opposite of Grace.

Thus begins George Bernard Shaw's The Philanderer, a comedy about Leonard's attempts to free himself of Julia and win over Grace. Of course, Shaw uses this story as a frame on which he hangs vibrant discussions about the nature of love, the battle of the sexes, marriage, the generation gap, the medical profession, and any number of other topics. This thought-provoking and entertaining play is given a good home by Theater Ten Ten.

Despite being on a shoe-string budget, the company never scrimps when it come to Shaw's wonderful language. The actors excellently portray the unique cast of characters inhabiting this play. Julian Stetkevych is wonderful as the charming cad, Charteris. Tatiana Gomberg does an superb job as the petty and manipulative Julia. She also gets to show some range in the final scenes as Julia puts aside her petty ways and grows up. Anne Gill is charming as the self-assured, and aptly named, Grace.

Set designer David Fuller does a rather good job creating three different locations on the small stage by rearranging the furniture and changing the artwork and other bric-a-brac. He cleverly makes less look like more. The only major fault is that his design, which does not rely on curtains of any kind, does nothing to mitigate the echo caused by the cavernous auditorium at Theater Ten Ten. Each line is heard twice, first as spoken by the actor, and slightly behind that, as an echo from the far end of the chamber. While the ear does adapt, it ruins his attempt to recreate an intimate room in a Victorian house.

Other production values are strong, especially Mira Veikley's marvelous costumes. Rich and sumptuous, they capture the spirit of the times without breaking the bank.

Director Leah Bonvissuto directs with a gentle touch, allowing the language and the characters to dictate the pace of the play. The result is a play with natural ebbs and flows, moving quickly, but never feeling forced.

Though less known than some of his others, Shaw's The Philanderer is a fascinating and surprisingly relevant play.

The Philanderer
Written by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Leah Bonvissuto
Assistant Director: Shauna Horn
Production Stage Manager: Anna Hemphill
Assistant Stage Manager: Britney McAden
Lighting Designer: Sherrice Kelly
Set Designer: David Fuller
Costume Design: Mira Veikley
Assistant Costume Design: Kate Friedberg

Featuring: Julian Stetkevych (Leonard Charteris), Anne Gill (Grace Tranfield), Tatiana Gomberg (Julia Craven), Duncan Hazard (Mr. Joseph Cuthbertson), Greg Horton (Colonel Daniel Craven), Shauna Horn (The Page), Mickey Ryan (Dr. Paramore), Barrie Kreinik (Sylvia Craven)

Theater Ten Ten
1010 Park Avenue

Closed March 15th