Monday, April 16, 2012

Elegy for a Lady and Three Women, Cesear’s Forum

It is the mission of Cesear’s Forum to produce work that is “unconventional, new or lesser known,” and that goal can lead you into some difficult cul-de-sacs.

Such is the case with this combination of one-acts by two renowned writers. And while each show has its merits, the weaknesses of each—along with the questionable pairing of the two—make for a less than engrossing theatrical experience.

In Elegy for a Lady, Arthur Miller applies his formidable skills to a two-person dialogue that dances around the issues of mortality and morality without ever taking the plunge.

A man visits an upscale boutique to buy a gift for his mistress, whom he reports is dying. Speaking with the proprietress, he unburdens himself while being comforted and challenged by the shopkeeper. Whether she exists or is just a figment of his somewhat tortured psyche is for the audience to figure out.

What isn’t in dispute is that the 45-minute play, although well acted by Dana Hart and Ursula Cataan, seems more of a writing exercise than a finished piece. With the relationships either imaginary or tangential, no one seems to have much at stake except the dying woman, who remains off stage.

The second work, Three Women by poet Sylvia Plath, is written in verse and offers some telling lines about pregnancy from three different perspectives.

But the imagery is often too dense and intertwined to be followed and appreciated, especially absent any plot or characters in the traditional sense. The actors—Cataan, Katrina Melanie Walker and Kristen Levy—do what they can to animate Plath’s words.

Director Greg Cesear seems to have a connection to this material, but the combined effect of both plays is less than a sum of its parts. And those parts don’t add up to much, at least in this theatrical format, to begin with.

Elegy for a Lady and Three Women

Through May 26 at Cesear’s Forum, Kennedy’s Down Under, PlayhouseSquare, 1518 Euclid Avenue, 216-241-6000

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