Tonya Pinkins as Caroline

Tonya Pinkins as Caroline
photo: Michal Daniel

The good news is that Caroline, or Change has survived its expansion to Broadway size with its dignity and beauty intact, and with its dazzling top-quality Public Theater cast even enhanced by the one major change in personnel, the substitution of warmly mellifluous Aisha de Haas for pert Adriane Lenox as The Moon. The bad news—for Caroline, like the moon, has a dark side—is that some small, skillful revisions have clarified the narrative but not solved the structural problems that make this fascinating evening seem to be constantly getting in its own way. George C. Wolfe's production is a summit of beauty, its every moment heightened by the loving, subtle architecture of Jeanine Tesori's score. But lovely as Caroline is, its elliptical mixture of small narrative details and big abstract statements never fuses convincingly into a single picture, and all the magnetic fervor of Tonya Pinkins's towering performance in the stoic, static central role can't prevent our attention from drifting to the more energizing figures around her. When the beauty fades, we're left with the kind of questions that seem to need answering in the body of the work, not after viewing it. With the care and craft that have gone into Caroline, that's a pity.

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