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One Life with too Much Talk
Angela Christain (Anais Nin). Photo by Richard Termine.
"Anais Nin-One of Her Lives"
Directed by Wendy Beckett
The Beckett Theatre
410 West 42nd St.
Opened Aug. 5, 2006
Tues. thru Sat. 8 p.m., Sat. 3 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m.
$45 (212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Aug. 5, 2006
Henry is married to June but is in love with Anais. Anais is married to Hugo but is in love with Henry, as well as his wife, June. June is, well, she's bad news for everyone.
Anyone would be justified in thinking the above is a synopsis of a daytime television drama, but they would be dead wrong. It's a summary of the plot of Australian playwrights Wendy Beckett's "Anais Nin-One of Her Lives," at The Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row until August 26.
The show is directed by the author and features Angela Christian, most recently seen in the title role in "The Woman in White," as Nin; David Bishins (off-Broadway's "A Mother, a Daughter and a Gun with Olympia Dukakis) as Miller; Alysia Reiner as June and Nin's mother; and Rocco Sisto, last seen in "In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer," as Otto Rank (Nin's therapist) and Nin's father. Everyone in the cast pulls his or her weight, but only Reiner's portrayal of June manages to pull the play out of the doldrums of excessive dialogue and no action.
Set in Paris in the 1930s, the play attempts to explain Nin's writing through her complicated relationships with her father, mother, Miller and his wife. It plays like a psychodrama onstage.
"Anais Nin-One of Her Lives" contains many quotes from the works of both Miller and Nin. This makes for language that is very evocative but sometimes so heavy and complicated one is tempted to fall asleep just for a rest.
When the characters are not quoting their real life counterparts, they speak as if they were. One can only wonder whether in the heat of passion or anger Nin and Miller would actually converse so literately.
Miller and Nin were extraordinary and influential people. An exploration of their relationship is certainly valuable. But Becket might have created a much more vibrant work if she'd remembered that another word for a serious play is drama. And drama is created by events.
"Anais Nin-One of Her lives" begins with promise. We see Nin with her mother. We see her at a lecture. But after a while the play devolves into a back-and-forth between the characters that seems to have little point other than who will sleep with whom.
Which brings us to the next point: sex on stage is hard to portray, especially when the actors have to keep essential clothing on. It's even harder to portray twice, once between two women and once between a man and a woman. As directed by Becket both incidents come off more as acrobatics than sex.
"Anais Nin-One of Her Lives" has some playful moments (mostly created by Reiner), but too much of it is just talk, talk, talk.
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