Morphic Resonance

The most interesting thing about the courtship of Manhattan singles Cleome (Lea Floden) and Wallace (Christopher Grove) is that they can't seem to get more than two sentences into a conversation without ending up in a no-win confrontation. At any given moment, it would have been perfectly correct for either to simply flee from this obtuse affair. Playwright Katherine Burger has offered director Leo Geter and his ensemble the tricky task of making plausible the evolution of the Cleome/Wallace relationship to the point where we believe they are finally comfortable and relaxed with one another. Despite Geter's imaginative, free-flowing staging and a very capable cast, It doesn't quite get there. The play's title refers to the concept that the more an action is repeated or duplicated, the more likely it is to succeed. If that is the case, then angst and insecurity should create a rock-solid foundation for the romance of freelance writers Cleome and Wallace. The only positive thing to come out of their quasi-mating is that they bring together their best friends, Alice (Francesca Rollins) and Jim (James DuMont), who nonchalantly proceed to fill each other's lives with love.

With:
Lea Floden (Cleome), Christopher Grove (Wallace), Francesca Rollins (Alice), James DuMont (Jim), John C. McLaughlin (Daddy).

Utilizing almost a bare stage, Geter’s facile manipulation of the five-member cast gives the effect of literally bouncing Burger’s 48 mini-scenes off the walls. Actually, the romantic clashing of Cleome and Wallace are of less interest than the more cathartic happenings the playwright has thrown into the mix. Cleome is carrying a monstrous resentment of her father (John C. McLaughlin), whom she feels blames her for her mother’s death at childbirth. Wallace is suffering from gigantic writer’s block. Daddy has a heart attack; and the life-loving Alice is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The main difficulty in the Cleome-Wallace pairing is that Floden and Grove never transcend the confrontational dialogue to establish any chemistry between them. They don’t even appear to be physically or emotionally attracted to one another, so they are inevitably defeated by Burger’s acerbic dialogue.

There is no such problem between Rollins’ aesthetic Alice and DuMont’s plain-talking Jim. From the moment of their first meeting, when they get up to do an impromptu samba, a pulsating passion flows between them that is truly electric. Rollins is awe-inspiring in her transformation from glowing former ballerina to cancer-ravaged bride, barely able proclaim her vow of love for her husband. And DuMont’s Jim exudes an effortless but deeply committed involvement and concern for the people in his life.

Also providing excellent support is McClaughlin as Cleome’s successful but embittered, hard-edged Daddy who always wants to make sure everyone’s glass is filled.

The best that can be said of the set and lighting designs of Keith McQueen and Dana Kilgore, respectively, is that they get out of the way of Geter’s rapid-fire scenic development.

Morphic Resonance

Eclectic Company Theatre: 47 seats; $15 top; Opened May 30

Production: Francesca Rollins and the Eclectic Company Theatre present a play in two acts by Katherine Burger, directed by Leo Geter

Creative: Set design, Keith McQueen; lighting design, Dana Kilgore; choreographer, Smith Wordes. Opened May 30, reviewed June 6; runs until June 28. Running time: 2 hours.

Cast: Lea Floden (Cleome), Christopher Grove (Wallace), Francesca Rollins (Alice), James DuMont (Jim), John C. McLaughlin (Daddy).

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