Little Things Mean A Lot

Washington University's most entertaining production of Alice in Bed is nicely acted, handsomely designed and skillfully directed. Leah Frattalone, in the strenuous and demanding role of Alice, makes her interesting, lovable, pitiful and occasionally frustrating. Andrew Richards does that wonderful actor's trick of pulling Henry James Sr. out of a hat apparently fully developed and three-dimensional. Bill Whitney's Henry James is a fussy, sometimes loving, rather effeminate fellow, not nearly as dignified as the Master would have preferred to seem. Stephen Sislen stepped in at the last moment to turn in an excellent performance as a young cat burglar who has the bad luck to enter Alice's room.

Andrea Urice has directed Alice in Bed with a discriminating eye for the dramatic possibilities of a play that could easily become dull literary trivia in less skilled hands. Her casting shows the crucial ability to assign roles to student actors in which they can excel, and her motivational skills got them to do just that. Bonnie Kruger's costume design is imaginative and fun -- as it almost always is; so is Leland Orvis' set. Undergraduates Jaclyn Pryor and Peter Gilchrist supply stimulating, imaginative sound and lighting, respectively.

-- Harry Weber

By Edward Albee
West End Players Guild

Director Amy Allen and scenic artist Luke Cano shrewdly chose shades of gray for their set for the West End Players Guild production of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance. Placed in the quite ordinary living room of retired businessman Tobias and his wife, Agnes, in a wealthy New York suburb, the play soon floats to a surreal plane on its lengthy, convoluted soliloquies and on the sudden appearance of Tobias and Agnes' friends Edna and Harry, who have been driven from their home by a nameless fear. Albee's work shudders with the angst and anomie that fill much midcentury literature, drama and film.

An acquaintance who acted under Albee's direction in one of his plays reported that during rehearsals the playwright paced the back of the theater, rarely glancing at the stage. He cared most about how the play sounded. Especially in A Delicate Balance, the music of the words makes the play flow. Agnes' alcoholic sister Claire gets the occasional line that sparkles with the brilliant wit Albee laces throughout Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Eleanor Mullin handles those lines with exactness and verve. Patty Junge, as daughter Julia, drives dramatic moments with blunt directness. The burden of Albee's language falls on the Agnes and Tobias of Dorothy Davis and Barry Hyatt. It demands absolute and precise command of the lines. When they have that command, Davis and Hyatt show a true ear for Albee's music. When they lack it, as happened sometimes last weekend, the work goes flat.

-- Bob Wilcox

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