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A CurtainUp Review

The Last Dance
By Miriam Colin

Sometimes I think I would have been so much happier had I been born a lilac.---Georgeanne
I can easily imagine a life as a lilac tree, but not a single blossom!--- Randall
Heather Goldenhersh and JoBeth Williams (Photo: Joan Marcus )
It's been a long time since I saw Marsha Norman's Night Mother but I still remember how strongly it affected me. It would be nice to report that Norman has finally matched that Pulitzer Prize winning effort. Unfortunately, The Last Dance is unlikely to change the fact that Ms. Norman seems to currently be giving her best efforts to TV writing and teaching and mentoring rather than writing another unforgettable play of her own.

The dancers in this ninety minute premiere seem to be listening to the cliched beat of an old-fashioned romantic comedy -- alas, not the top of the line. Instead of a substantive plot, we have a lot of flowery business. There's the literal kind with people walking in loaded with the stuff, and the kind that's associated with lots of fey, poetic talk that is at times embarrassingly bad. And, yes, we actually have several poets to wax poetic.

The plot that we do get revolves around a heroine of sorts, a forty-ish novelist named Charlotte (JoBeth Williams). The setting, shades of the much more charming Enchanted April ( see review) is a lovely home away from home, in this case the southern coast of France. Charlotte's is inherited rather than rented and the place she and the other characters once called home is not London but the Deep South where flowery talk is as abundant as magnolias.

Maybe it's heading towards fifty. Maybe it's the idyllic locale, but Charlotte now wants to live a more esthetic life, dedicated to books and poetry -- and without the distraction of Randall (David Rasche) her attractive, wealthy (what else?) long time admirer and Cab a hunky young lover (Lorenzo Pisoni) -- not to mention a possible involvement with a local fisherman. To expedite this Greta Garbo mantra Charlotte has turned matchmaker in order that Cab transfer his existence to Georgeanne (Heather Goldenhersh) her goddaughter who also happens to be a young poetess.

This sugary confection from a playwright from whom one expects much more is not helped by a less than enchanting performance by the lead character. Goldenhersh is, as she often is, adorable and funny. Pisoni is adequate as the young lover and Rasche makes the most of the older swain (if Norman can give a character a romance novel name like Cab, I feel entitled to use the word swain).

Lynne Meadows does her best to smoothly steer this forgettable play to its talky end. Since, as MTC's artistic director, she must take credit for including it in the company's season, perhaps she assumed the job of directing it as penance.

The production values, like the performances, are adequate but not outstanding so that you can't even applaud the scenery and the costumes. Manhattan Theatre Club's loyal subscribers deserve better than this.

Written by Marsha Norman
Directed by Lynne Meadow
Cast:Heather Goldenhersh (Georgeanne), Lorenzo Pisoni (Cab), David Rasche (Randall), JoBeth Williams (Charlotte )
Set Design: Loy Arcenas
Costume Design: Ann Roth
Sound Design: Bruce Ellman
Lighting Design: Duane Schuler
Original music: Jason Robert Brown

Running time: 90 minutes without intermission
Manhattan Theater Club, City Center, Stage II, 131 West 55th St 212/ 581-1212
From 5/06/03; opening 6/03/03
Tues-Sun 7:30; Sat & Sun @ 3pm -- $45, student tkts at $20 based on availability, up to one hour before show time
Reviewed by Miriam Colin based on May 31st performance
Last performance: 7/06/03

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