The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings

SEARCH CurtainUp


Letters to Editor




NEWS (Etcetera)  

(with Amazon search)

DC (Washington)  
Los Angeles 




Free Updates  
Type too small?  
NYC Weather  


A CurtainUp LA Review Review
Enigma Variations

By Jack Holland

In Enigma Variations, the first plot twist comes after a good twenty minutes or so of groundwork, and not a moment too soon. It starts out as the tired old piece with the wise old man teaching the young whippersnapper a thing or two about life. Thankfully, Enigma Variations twists on its plot twists, turns on its turning points and becomes a wonderful pretzel of a play. What starts out as a matching of wits and a conflict of egos becomes a much more complicated mess of relationships and emotions.

Set in a house within a broad and expansive seascape, the story at times is burdened by the heavy words of the author, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. When the writing does get down to the heart and soul of the matter, it hits a groove. Dealing with issues of love and lust, honesty and truth, the play exudes appreciation of good things that have passed and hope for the future.

The play evolves in one room and without intermission. The director, Daniel Roussel, has done an adequate job of creating a steady sense of movement within the play. While the pacing is a bit methodical, it never gets boring.

Donald Sutherland plays Abel Znorko, a feisty Nobel Prize winning author who lives a solitary life. Znorko has just published a passionate novel of love letters between a man and a woman. It has generate much interest since it's a departure from his last twenty novels which were of a more dry and philosophical nature.

Mr. Sutherland gives a finely crafted performance, as you would expect from an actor of his caliber. The easygoing manner running throughout much of his performance sets up some wonderful explorations of the darker areas of his character's inner turmoil.

Jamey Sheridan plays a small town reporter granted a rare interview with the solitary Znorko. His low key enhances and strengthens the play as a whole.

The set design by Ming Cho Lee is at once simple and majestic. Pleasing to look at, it has an atmosphere that resonates with the themes of the play

Lighting designer Robert Wierzel also deserves mention. The shift from the lighter shades of dusk to the shades prevalent just before nightfall subtly and enhance the overall mood and theme of the play.

Written by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Translated by Roeg Jacob
Directed by Daniel Roussel
With Jamey Sheridan and Donald Sutherland
Set Design: Ming Cho Lee
Lighting Design: Robert Wierzel
Costume Design: Candice Cain
Sound Design: Jon Gottlieb
Music Adaptation and Arrangement: Karl Fredrik Lundeberg
Casting: Stanley Soble, CSA
Production Stage Manager: Mary K. Klinger
Stage Manager: Robin Veith

The Mark Taper Forum 135 N. Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90012 213-628-2772
5/6/99-6/13/99; opened 5/7/99
Reviewed by Jack Holland

©Copyright May 1999, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from