Friday, April 10, 2009

review - Voice Lessons

Voice Lessons

written by Justin Tanner
directed by Bart DeLorenzo

Zephyr Theatre
through May 17

Great characterization makes a script tick. Think of The Glass Menagerie without Amanda Winfield, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest without McMurphy, or the screenplay Fatal Attraction without Alex made so undeniably unforgettable by Glenn Close! And, without argument, the actor's performance heightens this character! Such again is the case with Ginny in Justin Tanner's newest play Voice Lessons. Her schizophrenic nature and nonstop prattle rivet our constant attention and Laurie Metcalf's brilliant portrayal of her makes an otherwise pathetic and despiccable creature - get her out of here or as Bette Davis so aptly put it in All About Eve: the heave ho! - unbelievably fascinating and funny. You love her; you hate her, simultaneously.
Metcalf is totally open to the moment and allows herself to react without limitations. This makes her crazy Ginny acceptable, at least sympathetically. Though we may find her, as does Nate (French Stewart) awkward and obnoxious, we realize the antogonism comes from a much deeper place and that a far bigger payoff is in store. In fact, this wanna be singer - who cannot carry a tune - deludes herself into thinking that she is actually charming her voice teacher Nate into a loving relationship. The results are catastrophic and unbridledly hilarious. Add a third character Sheryl, another atypical love interest for Nate, played with an hysterically vengeful force by Maile Flanagan, and Tanner has created the triangle from hell.
As brilliantly as Metcalf opens up and cuts loose, Stewart is equally marvelous in holding back, as in his reactions of disbelief and agitated malaise.
Tanner's writing is deliciously way off center and over-the-top, and with Bart DeLorenzo creating the perfect phrenetic pace, the 55 minute piece whizzes by in what seems like a flash. Instrumental musical background between scenes of the very theatrical Phantom of the Opera and West Side Story, to name a couple, enriches the highs of the action, as does Ginny's favorite love song, whose infamous popularity- gotta love it, gotta hate it- makes the perfect finale for this twisted story.
This is theatricality at its best, and is just about the funniest one-act I've seen in a very long while!
5 out of 5 stars


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