1st Stage The Violet HourBy McCall Doyle • Dec 2nd, 2008 • Category: Reviews, Stand Out!
1st Stage Theater, Falls Church, VA
Through December 14th
The Violet Hour at 1st Stage
There aren’t enough positive adjectives to describe 1st Stage‘s current production ofThe Violet Hour. It’s been an autumn of excellent DC area theatre (The Titans at TACT, Dinner with Friends at SSS, Vertical Hour at CLS, to name a few), but this is in a class by itself. Playwright Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out, Three Days of Rain, etc.) has beautifully crafted a winning dark comedy, and 1st Stage has found five brilliant actors to bring it to life.
Set in NYC in the spring of 1919, a young aspiring publisher is faced with the dilemma of choosing just the right novel to publish for his debut piece. David Winkler plays the publisher (John Pace Seavering) with remarkable affability and sincerity. He has all the charm of the worldly rich kid, and none of the pretension. Winkler hits all the right notes here, whether he’s the green businessman, the ardent lover, or the dedicated friend. Denis McLeary (Daniel Chestnut), one of Seavering’s best chums from Princeton, has written a book…and the publishing of that book will enable McLeary to marry the love of his life and ensconce her in the wealthy lifestyle to which she’s accustomed. Chestnut adds great nuance to his character…he’s a poetic soul with a thin layer of sophistication, fighting to hide all the insecurities of a lower class childhood. He loves & respects Seavering while envying his easy life and guaranteed success. Chestnut is particularly captivating in a lengthy Act II monologue, sensitive and heartbreaking all at once.
Lucas Beck is the put-upon Gidger, Boy Friday at Seavering’s fledgling firm. Beck is a tremendous talent, creating and then wholly dedicating himself to the role. Beck’s comedic timing was flawless, and he provided release during the show’s tense moments. He garnered several huge laughs and even some unsolicited but well deserved applause during the night.
Jessie Brewster (Natalie Tucker) is a renowned black nightclub singer looking to have her memoirs published by Seavering. They have a personal relationship as well as their professional one and the authenticity of the former relationship is often in doubt. Tucker’s portrayal was brazen, dark, & edgy, and utterly believable.
Jessica Aimone‘s performance as heiress Rosamunde Plinth was subtle yet powerful. Her silvery laugh, much admired by Denis, is laced with madness, and her struggle for independence, true love, and fulfilling her obligations is absorbing and piteous.
There are triangles of love and friendship here, with moral and metaphysical questions thrown in. The line exchange between all characters borders on lyrical.
The language of the play is stunning, a modern day Shakespeare in its eloquence. It has none of the stilted writing or delivery that often hampers period pieces. The costumes (Andre Hopfer & Cheryl Patton Wu) were well-suited to the period and impeccably done. The set design was spare and nicely constructed, complementing the 110 seat space. Scenic art backdrops of NYC were gorgeously fashioned by Bob Krause. The lighting design by C. Ian Campbell was thoughtful from the violet kliegs to the black outs. Sound design (Peter Van Valkenburgh) was especially well done…there were several difficult cues to coordinate and each one was executed faultlessly.
The direction by Mark Krikstan was perfect. His directing experience and patience with actors is on display here…there wasn’t a miscast character, a forced movement, or a misuse of the distinctive space.
The Violet Hour is a play unlike any other. There is no need to elaborate on the plot which is filled with sometimes practical, sometimes mythical twists. You will be on the edge of your seats, completely enthralled by the unique storyline, the fully developed characters, and the need to see into their futures…bleak or bright. It is a fantastic & unforgettable show that deserves to be seen. Please go out and support this brand new professional theatre in the heart of Tysons Corner…you won’t regret it.
- John Pace Seavering: David Winkler
- Jessie Brewster: Natalie Tucker
- Denis McLeary: Daniel Chestnut
- Gidger: Lucas Beck
- Rosamunde Plith: Jessica Aimone
- Director: Mark Krikstan
- Stage Manager: Lauren Friedman
- Lighting Design: C. Ian Campbell
- Lighting Tech: Sebastian Wilbern
- Sound Design: Peter Van Valkenburgh
- Voice/Accent Coach: Jane Kalbfeld
- Hair/Makeup/Costume Design: Andre Hopfer
- Scenic Art: Bob Krause
- House Manager: Deb Crerie
- Set Decoration: Kay Rzasa
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/2727.