Paris Styles

Not nearly as reasonable, though, as casting Lola Pashalinski to play Gertrude Stein— the best work I've ever seen her do (and I've been watching since the original production of Ludlam's Bluebeard), as well as the easiest-flowing and happiest. There seems to be no distance, in any respect, between her and the character— no struggle to look or sound like Stein, never a lack of clarity or authority in her handling of the language, and always a depth of feeling to match the surface lucidity. Striving to compete with her majestic ease, Chapman is understandably tempted to overstate and strain from time to time; when not doing so, she catches, endearingly, Alice's contradictory persona, caustic and tender. Probably Alice herself felt a similar need to fight Gertrude for attention now and then. "Dear life," Gertrude wrote, "life is strife." Fresh and affectionate, Gertrude and Alicebrings the strife to life with unexpected sweetness and elegance, making modernism seem, not over, but vividly classical.

Linda Chapman and Lola Pashalinski in Gertrude and Alice: quite regularly being gay there
Carol Rosegg
Linda Chapman and Lola Pashalinski in Gertrude and Alice: quite regularly being gay there

Details

Gertrude and Alice: A Likeness to Loving
By Lola Pashalinski and Linda Chapman
Signature Theatre
555 West 42nd Street
244-7529

La Terrasse
By Jean-Claude Carrière,
translated by Mark O'Donnell
Manhattan Theatre Club
131 West 55th Street
581-1212

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A very different Paris life is the focus of Jean-Claude Carrière's comedy, La Terrasse. A couple abruptly breaking up finds its apartment, just as abruptly, invaded by eccentrics in search of a better living space. Carrière tries, unsuccessfully but not uninterestingly, to weave two different types of comedy out of this material: a standard farce about the invaders using the apartment for all kinds of shady business, not excluding murder and suicide attempts via the offstage terrace; and a post-Absurdist philosophic comedy about the emptiness of life at the end of the modernist era. Like two people trying to live in a very small space, the two notions keep getting in each other's way, and neither is new enough to strike many sparks. Mike Ockrent's staging, though, coaxes a fair batch of laughs from the oddly mixed elements, helped by Santo Loquasto's puckishly angled set and several very funny performances, especially Tom Aldredge as an almost blind general and Bruce Norris as a rich loon who compulsively proposes to unavailable women. And the only objection to Mark O'Donnell's smooth, speakable translation is that it fails to tamper sufficiently with the original. Loyalty to the author should normally be the translator's first rule, but if there was ever a play that needed its long speeches curbed, its data clarified, and a lot of extra gags to soup it up, La Terrasse is it.

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