Sunday, January 15, 2006

Boo to Light on the Piazza

I cannot belive this show won six Tony Awards -- yikes! Here's my review:

Sexual identity in 1950s America diverges greatly from that found in the country today. Art portraying the bygone baby boomer era – as does the musical adaptation of Elizabeth Spencer's novel Light on the Piazza -- raises the question of relevance in our modern age. Piazza’s story line is outdated; accordingly this production at the Lincoln Center Theater fails to contribute substance to recent conversation about life or love.

The plot emphasizes extinct state-side values by transporting a pair of American women to Italy. The two leading ladies, domineering mother Margaret (Victoria Clark) and mentally impaired child Clara Johnson (Katie Clarke), emblematize Southern stereotypes with their floral McCall catalogue dresses and subservient attitudes: the climax occurs when Margaret tells her husband “no” for the first time.

Instead of making a statement about the impending women’s liberation movement, director Barlett Sher compromises the subplot with his traditional interpretation of the text. In any case, the ultimate goal of the story is to marry off a daughter, (not exactly something to which a contemporary career gal can relate).

A second flaw in the script concerns the central focus of portraying human interaction. To understand the relationship between people requires the disclosure of their motives. However, the writing fixates on advancing the story where it should focus on the idiosyncrasies that make its characters whole, especially where the women are concerned. The conventions used to establish a framework for their behavior are trite and ill-used. Phone conversations between Margaret and her husband along with sparing soliloquies, fail to give dimension to their roles.

The principle women also fall short of creating any stirring interest in their characters through musicality or acting. Content to settle into the story’s inconsistencies, they are unable to fully convey the emotional impetus for their character’s actions.

The saving graces include the attractive sets paired with the commendable color and lighting design that bares Florence’s face. The brilliance of these successes pushes Light on the Piazza into a dated story about the love of Italy instead of the intended story of love in Italy.

(Light on the Piazza is still running at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center)


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