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Roses in December

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The title of Victor L. Cahn's new play, "Roses in December," refers to cherished memories of life and love recalled in one's later years. Whether or not those memories are accurate, or if it's advisable to stir up those old feelings, is another matter altogether.

Such is the dilemma facing Carolyn Meyers. An ambitious college student, Carolyn tries to entice a famous alumnus back for a weekend event. At first, reclusive author Joel Gordon fails to respond to her letters. Later, he graciously declines. Only when the fact that Joel knows Carolyn's parents is revealed does the drama really begin. As the young woman continues to delve into Joel and her parents' past, the author gradually gives in to her questions about the true nature of the relationship between himself and Carolyn's mother.

Directed by T.L. Reilly with a steady pace and gentle humor, Cahn's play is told through a series of letters. The correspondence is witty and wry, a touch old-fashioned in this age of emails and instant messages, but engaging nonetheless. The structure prohibits any interaction between the characters, but enough suspense is built by the alternating exchanges to keep viewers involved. However, considering all the secrecy leading up to it, the final revelation doesn't seem to be a big enough payoff.

James Naughton is a formidable presence as Joel (Victor Slezak takes over the role March 11-23). His calm demeanor gives way to exasperation as his character fends off Carolyn's probing queries. His real-life daughter, Keira Naughton, portrays the college girl who yearns to learn the truth about Joel and her parents. She brings both tenacity and sensitivity to the role.

The setting, created by Roman J. Tatarowicz, is a shadowy realm filled with picture frames and reference books. Sergei Dreznin composed the stirring original music, and Olga Devyatisilnaya designed the comfortable contemporary costumes.

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