Friday, April 24, 2015

Margin Notes: The Visit

Chita Rivera as Claire. Photo by Thom Kaine.
The Visit

Seen on: Saturday, 3/28/15.
My grade: B+. A fine production of a show that just wasn't for me.

Plot and Background
Claire Zachannasian, a widow several times over and now one of the wealthiest women in the world, returns to her former hometown, now a crumbling ruin of poverty and despair, and still clinging desperately to the hope that she will save it. However, her offered salvation comes with a price - she will pay the town a billion dollars - if they kill Anton, the man who jilted her when she was a teenager. It's been a long road to Broadway for this musical, adapted from Friedrich Durrenmatt's 1956 play; originally produced in 2001 in Chicago (still starring Chita - she's been with it the whole time), then at Virginia's Signature in 2008, then in the Williamstown festival last year, it now comes to Broadway condensed to one act.

What I Knew Beforehand
If memory serves, I performed in a scene from the original straight play when I was in college 300 years ago. And of course, I know plenty of other work by the authors Kander & Ebb, and McNally.


Play: While the show itself doesn't necessarily speak to me, score or script, and the staging is often deliberately distancing (echoes of Brecht whenever the townspeople come into play), this really was a very well done production. The whole thing was eerie, vaguely surreal. From Claire's entrance, a stack of suitcases rolled in on top of a black coffin (she came prepared!), through the ghosting appearances of Young Anton and Young Claire, flitting throughout the action, to the bizarre "Yellow Shoes" number, and ending in Claire's and Anton's exit, the whole thing could feel like a dream, but a very deliberate one. One got the sense that none of the other people of the town were quite real, outside of Claire and Anton.

Cast: Chita Rivera and Roger Rees both have tremendous presence and chemistry. There was no trouble believing they've loved each other all this time. While neither has the strongest voice anymore, they're both still quite the pleasure to watch. And we still had the wonderful voices of Jason Daniely as Frederich Kuhn and John Riddle as Young Anton to carry us through (as well as the unnerving falsettos of Chris Newcomer and Matthew Deming as Claire's entourage).

Design: Scott Pask's set design is GORGEOUS - a glorious wreck of a building, fading tiles below, crumbling columns covered in dried out vines and tree branches, topped with a shattered skylight. It drifts off in forced perspective, enhancing the effect of a long echoing mausoleum, the ruins of a once-prosperous town. Japhy Weideman's light shafts down through the shattered ceiling (except when Claire's influence, the yellow light, bleeds up from below). Ann Hould-Ward costumed the townspeople in drabish enough evidence of gradual poverty, then slowly began highlighting each with shots of yellow - Claire's influence. It started with the shoes, of course, to reflect the song, but there were yellow hats, a yellow stole, a tennis racquet, etc. And Claire was a vision in white, pure elegance throwing their poverty into harsher relief.


Running: Now playing at Lyceum Theatre - Opening April 23, 2015.
Category: musical
Length: 90 minutes, no intermission.

Creative Team

Book: Terrence McNally
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Original Play: Friedrich Durrenmatt
Translation: Maurice Valency
Director: John Doyle
Designers: Graciela Daniele (Choreography), Scott Pask (Set), Ann Hould-Ward (Costume), Japhy Weideman (Lighting), Dan Moses Schreier (Sound), Paul Huntley (Hair & Wig), J. Jared Janas (Make-Up), Larry Hochman (Orchestrations).
Cast: Chita Rivera, Roger Rees, Jason Danieley, David Garrison, Mary Beth Peil, George Abud, Matthew Deming, Diana Dimarzio, Rick Holmes, Tom Nelis, Chris Newcomer, Aaron Ramey, John Riddle, Elena Shaddow, Timothy Shew, Michelle Veintimilla, Matt Dengler, Ken Krugman, Donna McKechnie, Emily Mechler.

Roger Rees, John Riddle, MIchelle Veintimilla, and Chita Rivera as
Anton, Young Anton, Young Claire, and Claire. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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