Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Ten Chimneys

When the superb actor Byron Jennings looks awkward and uncomfortable on stage, something is wrong. In this dreadful production of Jeffrey Hatcher's Ten Chimneys, directed by Dan Wackerman, that's the least of the problems, although perhaps the most astonishing. It takes work to make Jennings look bad.

Byron Jennings, Carolyn McCormick
Photo: Carol Rosegg

Here's the setup: theatre legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne have invited Sydney Greenstreet to visit them to socialize and get a leg up on rehearsing The Seagull. But when Greenstreet appears, ingenue Uta Hagen is with him. Lunt and Hagen flirt; Fontanne and Hagen bicker. How will this affect the Lunt's fabled marriage? Time will tell.

Ten Chimney's two hours or so include explorations of love, ambition, obsession, loss, meaning, and responsibility, and the play tries to be funny beside. It fails on pretty much all counts, although some of the discussions about Chekhov are reasonably intelligent.

A lot of the faults of this production are clearly the doing of director Wackerman. Playwright Hatcher at least makes genuine attempts to be sensitive to the complexities of people's lives. Wackerman, on the hand, keeps the performances at an almost-cartoon level, and he allows the play and the players to flail much of the time.

(six row, on the aisle; press ticket)

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