Critic At Large... Ruta Lee
VARIOUS—“Tragedy plus time equals comedy.” If you’ve ever been divorced, this is true. These words come from Erin Kamler, the brilliant writer, book, music and lyrics of “Divorce! The Musical” that is currently playing at the Hudson Theater in Hollywood.
“Divorce” is destined for a bigger theater; most likely in the “big apple.”
Ms. Kamler has created a very sharp sophisticated piece that does not slow for a minute, taking the audience through all the emotional turbulence that couples becoming singles can experience, but trust me, it’s not painful—great laughs and songs along the way.
The production team headed by (very young) Rick Culbertson has assembled a wondrous company. Starting with the five-person cast, the “couple” in this performance beautifully played by Rick Segall and (understudy) Kerri-Anne Lavin move you from tears to laughter.
The umpteen other roles are magically played by Gabrielle Wagner, Gregory Franklin and Leslie Stevens, who with a flick of the wrist, the wigs and set changes into various characters, which make the marriage gone sour ironically funny. Each tuneful vignette is delightfully unique. When (Audrey Hepburnish) Leslie Stevens catapults her long stems up on the bar you know the ride through the singing and dancing scenes will be fun.
Musical director, David O. with a small but mighty ensemble creates powerful and lush orchestral support for the performers, AND FUN IT IS!
This all takes place on a postage stamp stage in a skillfully crafted set by very gifted Danny Cistone. Lighting design by Jeremy Pivnick was mystically mood setting considering he had very little to work with. Sound was fine by Cricket Myers. It’s a small house so amplification has to be at a minimum.
I have a little bone to pick with the costume designer, Denitsa Bliznakova. While most of the costumes are very clever and work well with the set, the “couples” outfits were too resale shop for a wealthy pair, and please, never put a leading lady in flat shoes, especially shiny ones that draw attention to feet instead of face (nude one inch heels will make legs disappear and can be worn in every scene). Amen!
Rick Sparks, the ring master of this many scene circus, is a most creative director/choreographer! He moves his cast with lightening speed but puts focus on poignant moments with a velvet glove.
All in all, The Thalians theater group who attended a matinee and evening performance agreed that three-time Stephen Sondheim’s young playwrights award winner, Erin Kamler has created a very special piece that I am sure will see Broadway before long.
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