(Pictured: Rana Kangas-Kent as Rosalie in 'Landscape' Photo by Zabrina Tipton)
Buzzin’ – Lee Hartgrave February 2, 2009
LANDSCAPE OF THE BODY – John Guare
“IT’S AMAZING HOW A LITTLE TOMORROW CAN RECOMPENSE A LOT OF SORROW” --- from one of Rosalie’s songs
A TWISTY TOP-NOTCH THRILLER
The John Guare play “Landscape of the Body” didn’t even run a month when it first opened in New York’s Public Theater in the Fall of 07.
To many, the play will seem like a jigsaw puzzle, there is a lot going on here. Betty leaves Maine and comes to New York to stay with her sister, Rosalie. Betty is just getting ready to settle in with her 14-year old son, when her sister is killed in a hit and run. Then Betty gets a job with a man, who likes to wear a Rita Hayworth kind of frock. Betty is just beginning to make a little money working for her very odd, but interesting employer (Gabe Marin). But poor Betty – her employer is shot by mistake at a Bank. And that’s not all. Her 14-year old, who has been pals with some juvenile no goodniks was in a-round-about way, the reason that her employer gets shot in the bank. He later is decapitated by one of his hoodlum friends.
Meanwhile, even though Betty’s glamorous sister Rosalie is dead - she's not out of sight. She pops up every now and then, looking like a Cabaret Star who sings soul-searching songs. What may confuse people are the multiple flashbacks. The action starts with Betty writing notes on the deck of a Ferry. She stuffs the notes in small bottles and throws them overboard into the water. Reminds me of the movie 'Ship of Fools' with Vivian Leigh.
Betty goes from hope and despair. One day there is promise, and the next day disaster. Along the way comes a rich man Durwood Peach. He was an old boyfriend of Betty’s, who has become a Millionaire. He says that he wants to marry her and he gives her a thousand dollars for her to travel to North Carolina. He declares that he would give up his Mansion for her, because the only landscape that is cares about is the ‘landscape of the body.” And that would be Betty’s. Betty is floating on air for a time. When she gets there, the family would not let her into the house. They inform her that Durwood was in a mental hospital, the same one that he escaped from. They give her $50 bucks to catch a bus back to where she came from. Another of Betty’s dreams fall apart.
Guare’s play is certainly witty and gritty. The exhilarating intense and disturbing acting keeps you on the edge of your seat. Here’s the deal. The play is not all doom and gloom. There are many elements that very comedic. I know that everyone expects perfection in a theatrical piece. Well, let me tell you…YOU GET IT IN THIS PLAY! Let’s just say that it’s insanely brilliant.
Maybe the reason it ran less than a month in New York is because they didn’t have the cast that is in San Francisco. THEY ARE: Susi Damilano (Betty) who is unwaveringly astonishing. Rana Kangas-Kent (Rosalie) literally sets the stage on fire. Gabriel Marin (Raulito, Durwood Peach), has again slammed the pedal to the metal, showing us again, what a great actor he is. Alexander Szotak (Bert) could be Benjamin Button, he is that good. (Hey Hollywood, looking for a believable kid actor?) Andrew Hurteau (Captain Marvin Holahan) gives new meaning to a love hate relationship with as a good cop, bad cop)… remarkable acting. Also hugely impressive…Julie Belanoff, Haley Reicher, Otto Pippenger, Anthony Miller, Sofie Christensen and Gideon Lazarus. What I liked most about this play is that the great direction by Bill English allowed me to come to my own conclusions. And these people added to the thrill. Bill English’s set…Justin Dodd, Sound…Krista Smith, Lights…Valera Coble, Intriguing Costumes…Seren Helday, Properties…Kimberly Richards, Choreography and Tania Johnson Pianist.
AT THE SF PLAYHOUSE (Sutter near Powell Street)
RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-
(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed several articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook Section and produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))
FOLLOW LEE HARTGRAVE. Just Google his name. This review is NOW PUBLIC