BWW Reviews: Richmond Triangle Players Designs Quality Performances in DESIGN FOR LIVING
As a teacher, I see Design for Living through the prism of Geometry. The play itself is a dichotomy. While written by Noel Coward in 1932, and no longer as controversial as it was in its day, the material is still timely and the themes are not dated.
The play, currently performing at Richmond Triangle Players, revolves around a love "triangle" between two men and a woman. Gilda (Jennie Meharg) is an up and coming designer, who at the start of the play is living with Otto (Jeffrey Cole), an artist, who was once involved in a relationship with Leo (Matt Polson) a playwright (originally played on Broadway by Coward himself). Gilda likes to control and "design" people's lives; but does not plan to include marriage in her own design for living.
Through the course of 3 Acts, the pairings move back and forth. A 4th wheel in this love quadrilateral is Gilda's longtime family friend Ernest Friedman (Michael Hawke) an art dealer who starts out as an spectator in these relationships, but eventually becomes entangled himself while serving as the voice of morality, admonishing the immorality of their behaviors and relationships, as seen by society.
Director Justin Amellio keeps the dialogue and blocking energetic, dynamic and fast paced. He visually creates images of triangles in the staging- sometimes equilateral and evenly spaced; sometimes isosceles in design as the paradigm of power shifts between the relationships.
Meharg is classically glamorous and poised, like a 1930's Katherine Hepburn or Bette Davis; strong and independent. Cole's Otto is charming, carefree and charismatic as opposed to Polson's Leo, who is more rigid, egotistical and awkward. Hawke is properly dignified and stoic as the older and more conventionally moral Ernest.
Multiple supporting roles are played effectively by Morgan Meadows and Charley Raintree; but it is Annie Zannetti who steals the spotlight at times with her hilarious and diametrically opposed characters of a cockney maid and a New York socialite.
Michael Jarrett's lights work well with David Allan Ballas' surprisingly elaborate and lavish sets that change with each act. I was a bit bothered by two paintings of bookshelves instead of real bookshelves, and clearly faux newspapers that had blank pages inside that were shown to the audience. Alex Valentin's costumes worked well, especially in Act 3.
As imposing as 3 Acts may sound to modern theater goers, the play moves quickly, and with scene breaks and 2 intermissions, it is no more daunting than a program on PBS or HULU. At a total run time of under 2 and ¾ hours, it is time well spent. Playing through October 18. www.rtriangle.org