Saturday, February 16, 2008


Photo/Matthew Koschara

The Sanford Meisner Theater, as with many off-off-Broadway houses, is a little run-down, and not all that much to look at. But as avid theatergoers should know, it's not so much the look of the place so much as the art that happens within it. That said, Cherubina is the perfect show to run there: based on the true story of the fictional Cherubina de Gabriak, the play skewers the hollow shell of artistic integrity when Elisa (Amanda Fulks), a frustrated would-be poet, collides with her friend, Max (Jimmy Owens), to create the sort of beautiful, mysterious woman capable of getting published by Max's boss, Nikolai (Teddy Bergman). After some suspenseful stakes-raising (the play opens with Nikolai preparing to duel with Max), the play spends its first half giving truth to the lie, showing poetry to be a sort of existential shell game in which your words aren't nearly as consequential as your voice. Witty and light, Paul Cohen's script allows us to feel for all three of the characters: even the snobbish Nikolai, who falls for Cherubina, is adorable, especially given Bergman's whole-hearted portrayal. These early moments also do well to establish the pace of the second half, in which Fulks, playing a fiercely vulnerable needs, falls for Nikolai, convincing herself that he will love her -- deformed leg and all -- because he loves her words. Ultimately, the body -- a very physical consideration of Alexis Poledouris's energetic direction -- trumps the text, and the play drops its excitable pace long enough for us to feel the cold that seeps in once the vodka's gone.

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