BWW Reviews: Film Legend Leslie Caron Graces the Laguna Playhouse Stage
Two character plays about love and friendship over time like Same Time, Next Year by Bernard Slade and Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry are A-list treasures. Their lack of pretension and real humanity make them linger quite joyously in the mind. In spite of some wonderful moments, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks by Richard Alfieri is not quite at that level. As in a sitcom, many of the reactions are too quick and ready-made...and the outcome relies heavily on illness and sympathy to keep the two characters connected; but despite its flaws, the play is enormously entertaining and appealing in the right hands. What makes the current Laguna Playhouse production so memorable is the pairing of film legend Leslie Caron with 6-time Ovation Award winner David Engel, both known for their superior reliability with a dance step or two.
What I like best about the play is when Lily (Caron) and Michael (Engel) open up - not at first, as they both are too insecure to strip away the masks of convenience. But after a period of adjustment, and all lies are accounted for, the two start to enjoy each other's company and confide about the past. That's nice. The woman gains a son - she had abandoned her daughter in time of need because of her Baptist minister husband's pigheadedness... and the man, a second mother. He had lost his own mother to Alzheimer's Disease and one true boyfriend to pancreatic cancer. What results is a relationship that satisfies a series of needs, not surely the best kind of friendship possible, but it is sweet and assuredly comforting, especially for the woman near the end of her life. The second thing most pleasant about this play is the dancing, brief at the end of every scene, but in this case a bit more extended with Engel and Caron stealing these cherished moments guided by choreographer Donna McKechnie's keen eye and flair.