THEATRE REVIEWS

FOREVER TANGO

R E V I E W E D B Y

PHYLLIS GOLDMAN

A backdrop of tiny Christmas lights, a front scrim of cloud-like formations which partially hides the orchestra, and an outsized Spanish bandeon to the side from which a lone male dancer emerges--the stage is set for the newest Tango fest to come to Broadway. "Forever Tango," in residence at the Walter Kerr Theatre, has already extended its run, and the crowds are going mad. So this is what has replaced ballet among the New York dance aficionados--and what a good replacement it is. This tango production is packaged as neatly as any Broadway show, full of handsome dancers--women in lavish gowns, men looking properly sinister--and 11 musicians establishing a symphony orchestra sound that runs away with the show.

Why should the orchestra be the star of a dance production? Perhaps the grit and guts of the legendary tango is, in this production, too much sacrificed to show biz. The sounds of the bandeon that should hold fast the male and female dancer in the ecstasy of physical passion doesn't glue them together in that necessary magnetic way. Despite the anguished frowns of Marcela Duran (maybe it was the frizzed hair tossed in the face of her partner, Carlos Gavito), the connection between these two was full of doubt. Somehow the truth of the tango was diminished by a pouty and disinterested leading lady, Miriam Larici, despite her revealing silver Wonder Woman costume.

Yet the show delivers on other levels. The sincerity of the musicians; the parade of black, elegant backless gowns; and the choreography, created by the dancers, is almost always provocative and stylish. The couple to watch are the elegant Cecilia Saia, a tall, statuesque blonde with a ballet dancer's ƒlan, and her attentive partner, Guillermo Merlo. These two bring to their choreography an inner electricity as his hands twist and turn her with authority. Both are supremely elegant, yet exude an insatiable thirst for one another. Their legs cut and slice in clean, incisive movements, inserting hitch kicks, chainƒ turns, and nicely lifted attitudes, until she is dropped (though ably supported) to the floor in a breath-taking back bend.

The CD, prominently on sale in the theatre lobby, is a must, tango lover or not. The music, especially from the four bandeon players, exudes the passion that the dancers oftentimes miss, and the vocalist, Carlos Morel, brings the emotional tone to a fevered pitch with his remarkable songs. The tango is forever--a captivating evening's entertainment.

Presented by Steven Baruch, et al., at the Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48th St., NYC., June 16-Aug. 9, extended through Aug. 30.

THE EVIL SPELL

OF THE BUTTERFLY

R E V I E W E D B Y

VICTOR GLUCK

Whether it was the uncredited translation or the multiple acting styles or simply the fact that free-verse Spanish poetry doesn't translate well into stage English, Tony Mata's revival of Federico Garcia Lorca's insect comedy, "The Evil Spell of the Butterfly" was heavy going. However, visually the production was magical. The costumes by Katherine L. Rodman for the various beetles, butterfly, scorpion, fireflies, etc., were more imaginative than those for "Cats." While the costumes for "Cats" are absolutely literal, these were original and inventive. Samuel J. Hamm, Jr.,'s original score was always atmospheric and moody. The white box setting by Robert A. White included smoke, colorful props, and at times a luminous white scrim. All this was depicted with an astute eye for light in the forest by lighting designer Robert W. Henderson, Jr.

Lorca's play is a fable about faith, love, and dreams in the style of Capek's "The Insect Comedy" or Janacek's "The Cunning Little Vixen," with the theme "that Love is Death in disguise." Narrator Tony Rodr'guez's rhythms made little out of the prologue, though his poet hero was somewhat better. Amelia Branyon was lovely but bland as his wounded butterfly love. Alex Altomonte as Scorpy entirely missed the point that he was supposed to be drunk. The actresses playing the older characters were a good deal better. Susan O'Connor, Kerensa Peterson and Alejandra Rojas not only made their beetle mothers and saintly grandmothers three-dimensional, but also demonstrated the intended parallels between animal and human behavior. In addition. Kari Goetz, Beth McIntosh, and Megan Staley as the girlish fireflies were quite delightful.

Presented by the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre in collaboration with the University of Florida. In English at the Lamb's Theatre, 130 W. 44th St., NYC, July 9-12. In Spanish at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, 304 W. 47th St., NYC, Aug. 25-Sept. 28.

LES DANA•DES

R E V I E W E D B Y

DAVID A. ROSENBERG

Scene: Lincoln Center Plaza, Thurs., July 10. Rob Fisher and the Coffee Club Orchestra play while couples warmly embrace, dancing to familiar tunes under a canopy of benign stars. In an outdoor theatre in Damrosch Park a few yards away, as part of Lincoln Center Festival 97, other couples engage in acts of rape, pillage, and ritual murder as the gods look on with disdain.

The play is Aeschylus' "Les Dana•des," considered the first extant drama, but existing only in fragments. Romanian director Silviu Purcarete fleshes out the work in a hauntingly imagistic production that becomes a depressing yet instructive parable about nationalism, political expediency, and the war between men and women. Just like home.

The game begins when, observed by haughty and indifferent Greek gods, 50 female refugees from barbaric Egypt ask protection from civilized Greece. They and their pursuers--50 roughneck, half-clothed Egyptian males--later play a savage game of sex and death. Only toward the end does salvation seem remotely possible.

Meanwhile we get the idea that we learn from pain as the playthings of capricious immortals. With a cast of 120, the French-language production (with English supertitles) also reminds us that what happens in bed is a metaphor for what happens in the world, and that ain't good. ("Like thousands of women before you, marriage will be your final fate.") Actually, the play, though not this rendering, comes down on the side of romantic love.

The production has a sweeping grandeur, from Stefania Cenean's set and costumes, to the lighting by Purcarete and Vadim Levinschi, to the abrupt sounds of composer Iosif Hertea. It's a fierce evening, an artistic link to other cultures and eras.

Presented by Lincoln Center Festival 97 in Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center, NYC, July 8-20.

TELL-TALE

R E V I E W E D B Y

VICTOR GLUCK

Take one portion "The Tell-Tale Heart." Add a twist from the life story of the late Dorian Corey, star of "Paris Is Burning." Throw in bits and pieces from "The Raven" and "The Fall of the House of Usher." Stir with the premise from "Diabolique." Garnish with two drag queens (Sherry Vine and Jackie Beat) and one Latino actor (Mario Diaz). Serve with visual effects by Basil Twist, and you still won't know what delicious campy fun is awaiting you at Theatre Couture's production of "Tell-Tale."

Playwright Erik Jackson has written a high-camp comic thriller with East Village style, celebrity gossip, literary archetypes, and Grand Guignol. This highly plotted tale concerns Lenore Usher, (Vine), a medical illustrator who became a celebrity after publishing "Corpus," a cult best-seller. Suffering a nervous breakdown after attempting to kill her husband, Dr. Buddy Starcher, Lenore, now an agoraphobe, lives with her manipulative housekeeper Cora Tripetta (Beat) and her raven named Poe. When a sexy pizza delivery boy (Diaz) shows up unannounced, things take a Poe-ish turn for the worse. The acting styles of Vine and Beat complement each other, with Vine giving an over-the-top performance to Beat's deadpan technique of looking the audience right in the face. Diaz plays all the men, including the ex-husband and, in the final scene, Detective Sanders. Twist's puppets are another major character in the show, from the life-like raven, Poe, to the dancing body parts in the Busby Berkeley hallucinations. Theatre Couture's resident director, Joshua D. Rosenzweig, pilots this top-drawer production with wit and imagination. Outstanding among the creative elements are Kevin Adams' film noir lighting and all-white setting, the colorful and stylishly extravagant costumes by Marc Happel, and the comic tango choreographed by Jane Comfort. Mention must be made of the hairstyles for the heroines, by Bobby Miller and Perfidia.

A Theatre Couture production, presented by Dewar's, at Performance Space 122, 150 First Ave., NYC, June 13-July 6; extended to Aug. 3.

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