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The Wedding Dress

The Wedding Dress (Theatre Forty; 99 seats; $ 22 top) Theatre Forty presents a play in three acts by Nelson Rodrigues (translated by Toby Coe and Joffre Rodrigues). Directed by Paul Warner. Set, Amy Danger; lighting, Debra Garcia Lockwood; sound, Douglas Jon Leonard; costumes, Mark Bridges; choreographer, Joanie Fox. Opened, reviewed March 15; runs through April 27. Running time: 2 hours, 20 min. Cast: Stephanie Moffett (Alaide), J.J. Snyder (Lucia), Demetrio James (Pedro), Rhonda Lord (Clessi), Joan Chodorow (Alaide's Mother), Melody Henshaw (Pedro's Mother), George Milan (Alaide's Father), Scot Bowman (Clessi's Lover); Mark B. Hill, Erin Matthews. The venerable Beverly Hills-based Theatre Forty ensemble, which gained its early reputation for its facility with the classics, takes a bold step into the world of expressionistic/surrealistic drama with the U.S. premiere outing of "The Wedding Dress," by Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues (1912-80). Director Paul Warner (who guided the award-winning short pic "In the Name of the Father") makes startling and impressive use of the imaginative design elements of Amy Danger (set), Debra Garcia Lockwood (lights), Douglas Jon Leonard (sound) and Mark Bridges (costumes) to evoke a powerful sense of journeying into the "shadowlands of the unconscious mind." What the production fails to realize is Rodrigues' most dominant theme: the tragic futility of human aspiration as personified in the life and death of protagonist Alaide (Stephanie Moffett). With a pedestrian but workable text translated by Toby Coe and Rodrigues' son Joffre, "The Wedding Dress" roams the subconscious hallucinations of a middle-class young wife who has just been mortally injured in an auto accident. As she hovers at the brink of life, her delusional faculties snatch at memories both real and imagined. Dominating her subconscious are two recurring themes: the bitter wedding-day argument with her vengeful sister Lucia (J.J. Snyder) over the affections of Alaide's husband-to-be Pedro (Demetrio James); and the flamboyant life and murder of an infamous turn-of-the-century courtesan Clessi (Rhonda Lord), whose diary Alaide once read. Warner weaves the disjointed meandering of Alaide's fast-failing faculties into an almost seamless collage of ritual and fantasy, effectively orchestrating the 10-member ensemble who perform myriad roles. Assisting greatly is the choreographic efforts of Joanie Fox, who manages to keep a constant, surreal flow of motion hovering about Alaide. Unfortunately, the total effect of this often comical interaction is to lessen the impact of the woman's unfulfilled life and meaningless death rather than illuminating it. Further hampering the intent of playwright Rodrigues is an inconsistent ensemble, particularly the overly perky, non-involved portrayal of Moffett as Alaide. Moffett approaches all aspects of Alaide's near-death musings as if she were working her way through an episode of "The Donna Reed Show." Offering little assistance is the one-level teeth-gnashing of Snyder as the jealous Lucia and the over-the-top vamping of Lord as the voluptuous Clessi. The production did include some noteworthy portrayals. Joan Chodorow and Melody Henshaw strike the perfect balance of maternal concern and societal ineptitude as Alaide's and Pedro's mothers, respectively. Jones is quite believable as the two-timing cad who gives each woman as little of himself as he can get away with. Scot Bowman offers a pouty but dangerous presence as Clessi's wisp of a teenage lover, who eventually murders her. The true stars of the production are the evocative, interactive costumes of Bridges and the often spine-chilling sound of Leonard. Bridges' wedding dress evolves wonderfully from being a metaphor for the entrapment of Alaide's life to the soul-releasing shroud of her death. And the one inescapable reminder of the tragic lack of a meaningful resolution to Alaide's existence is Leonard's recurring, nightmarish sound of the impact of the vehicle that wipes this young woman from the face of the earth. AU: Julio Martinez

With:
Cast: Stephanie Moffett (Alaide), J.J. Snyder (Lucia), Demetrio James (Pedro), Rhonda Lord (Clessi), Joan Chodorow (Alaide's Mother), Melody Henshaw (Pedro's Mother), George Milan (Alaide's Father), Scot Bowman (Clessi's Lover); Mark B. Hill, Erin Matthews.

The Wedding Dress (Theatre Forty; 99 seats; $ 22 top) Theatre Forty presents a play in three acts by Nelson Rodrigues (translated by Toby Coe and Joffre Rodrigues). Directed by Paul Warner. Set, Amy Danger; lighting, Debra Garcia Lockwood; sound, Douglas Jon Leonard; costumes, Mark Bridges; choreographer, Joanie Fox. Opened, reviewed March 15; runs through April 27. Running time: 2 hours, 20 min. Cast: Stephanie Moffett (Alaide), J.J. Snyder (Lucia), Demetrio James (Pedro), Rhonda Lord (Clessi), Joan Chodorow (Alaide’s Mother), Melody Henshaw (Pedro’s Mother), George Milan (Alaide’s Father), Scot Bowman (Clessi’s Lover); Mark B. Hill, Erin Matthews. The venerable Beverly Hills-based Theatre Forty ensemble, which gained its early reputation for its facility with the classics, takes a bold step into the world of expressionistic/surrealistic drama with the U.S. premiere outing of “The Wedding Dress,” by Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues (1912-80). Director Paul Warner (who guided the award-winning short pic “In the Name of the Father”) makes startling and impressive use of the imaginative design elements of Amy Danger (set), Debra Garcia Lockwood (lights), Douglas Jon Leonard (sound) and Mark Bridges (costumes) to evoke a powerful sense of journeying into the “shadowlands of the unconscious mind.” What the production fails to realize is Rodrigues’ most dominant theme: the tragic futility of human aspiration as personified in the life and death of protagonist Alaide (Stephanie Moffett). With a pedestrian but workable text translated by Toby Coe and Rodrigues’ son Joffre, “The Wedding Dress” roams the subconscious hallucinations of a middle-class young wife who has just been mortally injured in an auto accident. As she hovers at the brink of life, her delusional faculties snatch at memories both real and imagined. Dominating her subconscious are two recurring themes: the bitter wedding-day argument with her vengeful sister Lucia (J.J. Snyder) over the affections of Alaide’s husband-to-be Pedro (Demetrio James); and the flamboyant life and murder of an infamous turn-of-the-century courtesan Clessi (Rhonda Lord), whose diary Alaide once read. Warner weaves the disjointed meandering of Alaide’s fast-failing faculties into an almost seamless collage of ritual and fantasy, effectively orchestrating the 10-member ensemble who perform myriad roles. Assisting greatly is the choreographic efforts of Joanie Fox, who manages to keep a constant, surreal flow of motion hovering about Alaide. Unfortunately, the total effect of this often comical interaction is to lessen the impact of the woman’s unfulfilled life and meaningless death rather than illuminating it. Further hampering the intent of playwright Rodrigues is an inconsistent ensemble, particularly the overly perky, non-involved portrayal of Moffett as Alaide. Moffett approaches all aspects of Alaide’s near-death musings as if she were working her way through an episode of “The Donna Reed Show.” Offering little assistance is the one-level teeth-gnashing of Snyder as the jealous Lucia and the over-the-top vamping of Lord as the voluptuous Clessi. The production did include some noteworthy portrayals. Joan Chodorow and Melody Henshaw strike the perfect balance of maternal concern and societal ineptitude as Alaide’s and Pedro’s mothers, respectively. Jones is quite believable as the two-timing cad who gives each woman as little of himself as he can get away with. Scot Bowman offers a pouty but dangerous presence as Clessi’s wisp of a teenage lover, who eventually murders her. The true stars of the production are the evocative, interactive costumes of Bridges and the often spine-chilling sound of Leonard. Bridges’ wedding dress evolves wonderfully from being a metaphor for the entrapment of Alaide’s life to the soul-releasing shroud of her death. And the one inescapable reminder of the tragic lack of a meaningful resolution to Alaide’s existence is Leonard’s recurring, nightmarish sound of the impact of the vehicle that wipes this young woman from the face of the earth. AU: Julio Martinez

The Wedding Dress

Theatre Forty; 99 seats; $22 top. Opened, reviewed March 15; runs through April 27.

Production: Theatre Forty presents a play in three acts by Nelson Rodrigues (translated by Toby Coe and Joffre Rodrigues). Di-rected by Paul Warner. Set, Amy Danger

Creative: Lighting, Debra Garcia Lockwood; sound, Douglas Jon Leonard; cos-tumes, Mark Bridges; choreographer, Joanie Fox. Running time: 2 hours, 20 min.

Cast: Cast: Stephanie Moffett (Alaide), J.J. Snyder (Lucia), Demetrio James (Pedro), Rhonda Lord (Clessi), Joan Chodorow (Alaide's Mother), Melody Henshaw (Pedro's Mother), George Milan (Alaide's Father), Scot Bowman (Clessi's Lover); Mark B. Hill, Erin Matthews.

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