Making 'The Scene' at Dorset Theater Festival
The stage, simply set with the New York City skyline and a fire escape, starts out inane enough, but soon drives down the freeway into the ultimate destructive pileup of a man and his inner self. Now that doesn't mean that this evening isn't filled with hilarious laughs and situations, far from it in fact. I found the ending is more prolific then one would imagine.
But, I get ahead of myself. If for nothing else, one needs to run, drive or hire an airplane to get tickets to see Carolyn Holding's portrayal of Clea as she wreaks havoc upon any man she bats her eyes at. Cocooned within a tight black dress, with a mane of luxurious hair and legs that virtually go from the ground to the heavens, Clea is a goddess of the man's imagination. A seemingly vapid and shallow goddess, she embodies a fantasy of sorts within the male libido though yet, she is deliciously so much more than what she appears. With an incoherent and repetitive drone of "tween" speak, this Ohio native, who has come to New York to find her fortune, may come across as an injured, dumb (yet sexy) little bird that needs to be saved. But, make no mistake; beneath that exterior is a vulture, a black widow, a succubus, a human vampire more devious then any we have seen on the screen. The live blood that she is after is not what pumps through our veins. No, she is after more than that: she is after a man's soul, money and power, and when done, leaves the carrion of the body.
The show starts as good friends Lewis (played with honesty and compassion) and Charlie (Tim Daly's subtle yet rancor-filled rendition of him at least) are looking down at the world below, avoiding the required sucking up that is needed to succeed in the entertainment industry at a N.Y.C roof party. Daly's matinee idol good looks make it easy to believe that Charlie was once a rising star. But it's Daly's nuanced performance that is striking: his ability to crawl inside this complex character suffering the all too familiar whirlpool into oblivion as his commodity (his talent) is not as hot as it once was. Auditions are sparse and callbacks even sparser. In swoops, the whirlwind of destruction known as Clea and this chance meeting begins a downward spiral of destruction. The antithesis of the out-of-work actor Charlie enters her web.
In the hilarious opening scene we discover that Clea has worked for a control freak of a woman, whom she refers to as the "highlight Nazi," and when the connections are made, we find out she is talking about Charlie's wife, Stella, played with incredible nuance and realism by Mary Bacon. Later on watching Lewis, Charlie and Stella compare notes about the air head Clea and it becomes clear that Stella is the only source of the couples' income as she plods miserably through life as a booking agent for a talk show. She wears the pants of dependability and reason in the relationship.
The rest of the first act introduces us into the world of Charlie, Stella and Lewis. They are three good friends who support each other emotionally, while navigating the inane and boring life of show business. These three good friends seem complacent in their journey while searching for something to wake them up from their day in and day out stupor: Charlie is searching for a job, Stella is hoping to adopt a baby and Lewis is looking for his next date. Clea is just the evocative alarm to wake them up.
Fast-paced direction by Holt keeps the rhythm of the show going, yet allows time to view the journey of Charlie and the ultimate destination that his choices have lead him to. Set design by John McDermott and Lighting Design by Michael Giannitti support the domestic, business like marriage of Stella and Charlie with it's warm tones, classic furniture and design. The bachelor pad of Lewis sports the cool tones and simplistic modern sense of a man still unattached and on the prowl. Free spirited, artistic "wanna be," predator Clea is clearly illustrated in her studio walk up, complete with an ensnaring Murphy Bed and her rolling rack of saucy tight black outfits. Costume Design by Kaye Voyce illustrates the feel of hip New Yorkers, and Sound Design by M.L. Doggs adds just the right amount of New York cityscape racket and music that helps further the action and drama.
So, I urge you - no, I beg you to get to this show. A night of comedy, loaded with a liberal dash of drama, mixed to create a deep and penetrating black comedy that comments upon the perverse, "success at any price" mindset that permeates our entertainment industry. Get your tickets right now. "The Scene" runs June 19 - July 7. To get season passes or individual tickets, call 802-867-2223 or go to www.dorsettheatrefestival.org.
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