Screen Testiness

Though darkly witty and compassionate in its writing, Greenberg's play is not without flaws, its sometimes annoyingly slipshod dramaturgy heavy on bumpy scene endings and omitted explanations. Luckily for Greenberg, the intelligence and emotional substance in his seemingly fluffy work makes it worth the days of post-performance rumination required to piece it to- gether. His script's shaky apects are matched by the unevenness of David Warren's production, which catches the high-comic tone matchlessly, but can't seem to find sufficient motion for the farcical climaxes or a visual life for the hospital phantasmagoria. Still, Neil Patel's set and Candice Donnelly's costumes paint the lush life of the party scenes gorgeously, and Warren's cast is a joy, with Frechette always inventive and varied in the taxing lead role, and Brenner a fierce if diminutive tower of dismissiveness as his mother. All this, plus Valley's nude backside and Blazer warbling Tre giorni son che Nina, should be enough to give any reasonable person a good time in the theater.

Paul Michael Valley (left) and Peter Frechette in Hurrah at Last: the fruits of affluence
Joan Marcus
Paul Michael Valley (left) and Peter Frechette in Hurrah at Last: the fruits of affluence

Details

Hurrah at Last
By Richard Greenberg
Gramercy Theatre
127 East 23rd Street
719-1300

Bildmakarna (The Image Makers)
By Per Olov Enquist
BAM Majestic Theatre (Closed)

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Laurie describes his parents' marriage as "an animated cartoon written by Strindberg," a description that could, regrettably, also be applied to Per Olov Enquist's The Image Makers, seen at BAM last week with its original Swedish cast, not because anyone has a high regard for the play but because it was staged by Ingmar Bergman. The Bergman stagings previously seen here have all been of masterpieces, with the arguable exception of Mishima's Madame de Sade, which is at least unlike any ordinary play. The moral to be drawn this time around was that mediocre material can no more inspire Bergman than it can anyone else; that the writer's alive, and eminent in Sweden, undoubtedly kept him from taking risks that could have made the event more exciting. As it was, the supposedly fabled encounter between the eminent novelist Selma Lagerlöf and the brilliant silent-film director Victor Sjöström was turned by Enquist into a pallid, all too familiar battle of the sexes and the generations, with the key role a young actress, Sjöström's current tootsie, who crashes the meeting, redirecting the eminent artists' attention to herself. Since Bergman knew and admired Sjöström (who played the old man in Wild Strawberries), his interest in this play, which virtually writes his great predecessor off as a character, is utterly baffling. His staging understandably seemed to lack enthusiasm; the acting was competent, with Carl-Magnus Dellow better than that as the nervous cameraman. But the one real distinction was the presence of Anita Björk, the towering mother of Madame de Sade and the exquisite Miss Julie of Alf Sjöberg's 1951 film. Here she was, half a century later, as a demure, cozy, but secretly haunted woman who couldn't be further from those two roles. Her still-thriving artistry was the evening's only strength.

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