Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Second Tosca

photo: Neilson Barnard

Set backstage at Opera California, this new comedy by Tom Rowan (Kiss And Cry) is a warmly entertaining and sometimes surprising pleasure that will especially appeal to opera fans: the playwright gets even the little opera details right. The story mostly concerns an emerging singer, preparing to perform a single family matinee of Tosca, who has to sort out the personal and artistic demands of everyone hovering around her: the controlling husband (who happens to be her conductor), the visiting diva, the awestruck fan who wants her to sing his music, the hunky stage manager who wants to steal her away to the country. There's even a singing ghost wandering around to wrack the nerves. The play is overlong at over two and a half hours, and it spells a bit too much out for us, but it's always colorful and entertaining, especially because the playwright skillfully subverts our expectations about each character just when we think we know who they are. (I was caught by susprise, for instance, by the unselfishness in the grand diva's second act speech) Considering the limitations of the small playing area, director Kevin Newbury does a commendable job of staging the action and of moving things along. And the cast is for the most part terrific: I was especially delighted by Melissa Picarello, who renders the visiting diva's personal assistant with youthful energy and transparent ambitiousness, and by Carrington Vilmont, an absolute scene-stealer as our heroine's gay brother and business manager. He's screamingly funny at dry and deadpan.

Also blogged by: [Aaron]

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