Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Jazz Age

photo: Ryan Jensen

No man should go through life without loving another man. So says F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway in Allan Knee’s frustratingly superficial biodrama which traces the friendship between the two iconic literary legends from their first encounter to their last. Too often, the play feels like nothing more than star-gawking in Roaring ‘20’s dress: both men are written one-dimensionally as if to keep them safe within their respective mythologies. The superficiality is especially noticeable when the playwright has the men quoting themselves: the gap between what these men wrote and how they are depicted here is vast. There is a third character in the play (F. Scott's wife Zelda) who often seems outside of the play's main interest, since the play offers few insights into, and doesn't adequately chart, her mental deterioration and its effect on the men's relationship. The production visually achieves a pleasurable elegance, thanks in large part to good design work (particularly the lighting and the excellent costuming) and there is also a small musical combo (on stage on the two-tiered set’s upper level) underscoring the play with songbook standards of the era. The music is meant to be decorative, adding an air of sophistication to the proceedings. It isn’t the band’s fault that they often pull focus.

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