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RACHEL

R E V I E W E D B Y

PETER SHAUGHNESSY

For Rachel Kramer (Molly Culver), being a beautiful, successful woman isn't all its cracked up to be. Sure, every man she meets falls in love with her. But will she ever meet someone who doesn't love himself more?

The men around Rachel turn her life into an all-out war, and she's always caught in the crossfire. Her shrink, Dr. Geller, wants to explore the boundaries of the doctor-patient relationship and does everything in his power to convince Rachel to dump Eddie (Ed Hardesty). Rachel asks Eddie to move in instead. This may be the one time Geller's advice would have helped her. Eddie secretly secures an illegal loan with Rachel's most prized posession: the original portrait Norman Rockwell painted of her grandmother.

Of course, when Rudy (Lawrence Winslow) the loan shark comes to collect, he falls for Rachel as well. Later, he returns the painting, revealing that Eddie gave it to him, pretending it was stolen. As planned, Rudy catches Rachel at a vulnerable moment, and drives a pretty big wedge between her and Eddie.

Culver's Rachel is tall and stunning, but displays none of the mystifying qualities that the other characters praise her for. Hardesty is convincing as Eddie, showing both the proud and the apologetic sides of the character. However, they have no chemistry between them. The production suffers because their relationship is not well-crafted.

Writer-director Carl Stillitano made the mistake of dwarfing the Rachel-Eddie relationship with overexuberant characterizations of Dr. Geller (Peter J. Coriaty) and Rudy. The script has a lot of funny moments, but it needs some editing. The production is too long.

The show is well staged, and moves well through the cozy space, aided by Paul Jones' smooth lighting transitions. Kent Patrick Hatch, in his scenic-designer debut, has crafted a smart set, punctuated by the faint Rorschach ink blots on Rachel's wall.

Presented by and at J.E.T. Productions, 134 26th St., NYC. Opened June 21 for an open run.

DONALD BYRD/THE GROUP

R E V I E W E D B Y

PHYLLIS GOLDMAN

Even on a dare it would have been difficult to take your eye from the Joyce Theater stage, where Donald Byrd and his enthralling dancers collectively called The Group performed recently. Byrd hypnotizes the audience with stunning choreography that pays homage to classical ballet, yet has its own soul. Fisticuffs between the sexes have always intrigued Byrd. This time around, however, his emphasis was less on battering and more on playful physicality and seductive teases. No props, no onstage musicians, no set pieces, and no fussbudgety costuming, Byrd wanted dancers shown as a pristine testimonial to clean training with an honest commitment to his vital choreography.

The dancers obeyed with an eagerness and an energy that made the three works presented simply spellbinding. At times the patterns could seem disjointed or hurried, but then Byrd would insert a moment of stillness with the held arabesque or the passƒ-relevƒ balance, and immediately the understanding of "why the rush" was clear. Not once did the choreography seem to be mired in just steps. The jutting lines of the dancers' legs showing off length and sinew gave a diamond edge to the tough tasks Byrd had set before them.

"Still" juxtaposed soft arms and defiant split leaps. Elizabeth Parkinson is a magnetic dancer more bewitching with every thrust of her exquisite legs. Michael Blake and Aldawna Morrison, two male dancers who have mastered the skills of partnering, are required to make females look weightless in the overhead lifts--and the women are held aloft in a pitch of excitement. Blake, in a solo turn, executes a series of astonishing lifts and falls under a center spotlight that gives him the look of a helpless overdose victim. This memorable moment occurring at the end of the piece was shocking--a jostling image.

Where can a piece titled "Sentimental Cannibalism" take us? Byrd sets up a battle of the sexes immediately-- the women bonded together, the men also. But the warm, erotic fusion of the two sexes becomes intertwined (as are the limbs) with passion, power, and dignity. The women--Leonora Stapleton, Diane Sales, Stephanie Guiland, and Parkinson--are among the finest female dancers ever assembled in one company. Sleek and strong as thoroughbreds, each has her own distinctive personality that stretches to the boundaries of the proscenium arch. Byrd has settled down, refining his craft with greater sensitivity and deliberate thought. The product is rewarding.

Self-presented at The Joyce Theater, 175 8th Ave., NYC, June

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