The revival of the Tony-winning Sondheim musical Passion, now at off-Broadway's CSC, is a strangely hypnotic work. Based on the 19th-century novel Fosca, the emotions are so outsized its theatricality is assured.
Staged with quiet intensity, Passion marries an operatic sensibility to a twisted tale. Giorgio (Ryan Silverman), a handsome young army captain, Clara (Melissa Errico), his beautiful lover, and Fosca (Judy Kuhn), the sickly hysteric who doubles as emotional stalker, explore love and obsession.
There is a quasi-Stockholm Syndrome vibe to this chamber piece; the weak and unattractive Fosca holds the handsome Giorgio hostage to her relentless demands. Conversely, he and Clara share a deep and abiding love -- an adult relationship that continues despite his assignment to a provincial Italian posting.
The intimacy and richness of Sondheim's sensitive score and James Lapine's book explore the nature of loneliness and the dangers of kindness. Love can enrapture, degrade and liberate. Who better to capture those nuances than Sondheim?
Director John Doyle has gotten excellent performances from his cast. Errico is captivating, and Silverman nicely calibrates love's shadings, while Kuhn boasts a quiet energy that transcends the melodrama. Passion is a disturbing story, but it illustrates the economic artistry that is a CSC hallmark.
Recovering artistic treasures is the province of the Mint Theater Company, which is currently staging Teresa Deevy's Katie Roche, set in Ballycar, Ireland in 1936. Deevy is a phenomenon, an Irish female playwright who had six plays produced by the Abbey Theater in the 1930s. Her tender, insightful works are unique; they focus on the lives of women.
She is well-served by this production and Vicki R. Davis' evocative set.
Deevy has a sympathy for those disenfranchised by gender or class, and she understands the failings of the human heart. Katie (a wonderful Wrenn Schmidt) is a servant girl unsure of her parentage who dreams of a grander life, exclaiming: "I am done with humble!"
She works in the home of kindly Amelia Gregg (a lovely Margaret Daly) and captures the attentions of her brother Stanislaus Gregg (a nuanced Patrick Fitzgerald), a restrained older man who takes a romantic interest in the lively girl. Katie is caught between her own desires and ambitions and the provincial expectations of the time.
Katie also attracts the attention of a local lad, Michael Maguire (Jon Fletcher), as well as Reuben (Jamie Jackson), a wanderer who pretends to wisdom he does not possess.
Issues of marriage, lineage and a woman's ability to determine her destiny are addressed; so is the disconnect between what is said and what is meant. Most impressive, Deevy, who was deaf, is adept at capturing the pain and longing between words. The play, the second from Deevy to be revived by the Mint, has a poetic intimacy all its own. Katie Roche reminds us how precious -- and fragile -- attachments and intentions can be.