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The Violet Hour (11/06/2003 - 12/21/2003)


AP: "Present, Future Collide in Violet Hour"

Time plays tricks on the characters in "The Violet Hour," Richard Greenberg's odd yet entertaining fantasy that has inaugurated Manhattan Theatre Club's new home on Broadway, the handsomely restored and renovated Biltmore Theatre.

Imagine a high-minded salon comedy by way of a "Twilight Zone" episode and you might get some idea of what Greenberg and director Evan Yionoulis are aiming for in this initially troubled production, which saw its two original actresses replaced before opening night.

The year is 1919, the place New York City and preppy young publisher John Pace Seavering is trying to decide what to publish first – a voluminous novel by his Princeton buddy, an F. Scott Fitzgerald prototype, or the memoirs of his mistress, a blues singer.

John, portrayed with appealing earnestness by Robert Sean Leonard, is being pressured by both writers. Denny, his college friend, needs to impress the wealthy family of his ethereal, childlike girlfriend, a meatpacking heiress who bears a strong resemblance to Fitzgerald's Zelda. Jessie, the imperious singer, is direct and no-nonsense, demanding John take their secretive affair seriously.

Yet Greenberg, author of the Tony-winning "Take Me Out" as well as "Eastern Standard" and "Three Days of Rain," has more on his mind than literary and personal wrangles. "In my work, the reader will never know where the story is headed," says Denny of his gigantic novel. The same could be said for theatergoers watching Greenberg's play.

A scent of mystery envelops "The Violet Hour," when John's prissy assistant, Gidger (portrayed with deliciously demented hysteria by Mario Cantone), announces the arrival of a large, forbidding machine. The contraption soon begins spewing out page after page of text.

By Act 2, John's office is filled with sheets of paper, pages that are from books published at the end of the 20th century, most of them dealing with what the neophyte publisher will become. John confronts his future as well as what will become of those around him. It exhilarates and terrifies him.

Greenberg cleverly tweaks the evolution - or should that be the dumbing down - of language over the next eight decades. Gidger hilariously ponders what he considers the desecration of the word "gay." "Gaiety gone," he wails. "How do they live without it?" And what's with all these new words such as "co-opt" and "existential"?

What is more important, the playwright seems to suggest that knowing the future doesn't necessarily make you any happier or wiser. John is faced with the dilemma of learning how his friends' lives will turn out, most of them disastrously.

Scott Foley skillfully projects the self-centered impetuosity and manipulation of the would-be novelist. Robin Miles, a late replacement for Jasmine Guy (who left the cast because of medical reasons), is commanding as the doomed singer. Dagmara Dominczyk, who took over for Laura Benanti (who left for artistic reasons) before preview performances started, doesn't quite capture the quirkiness of the novelist's rich fiancee.

Designer Christopher Barreca's surreal office setting fits the slightly off-kilter nature of the play. Jane Greenwood's period costumes are exactly right, particularly the sumptuous dresses for the women.

The play's haunting title, by the way, is the name of Denny's novel. As he explains it: "It's that time - that wonderful New York hour when the evening's about to reward you for the day."

The title fits perfectly. "The Violet Hour" is a well-crafted play filled with wonder, a celebration of possibility and anticipation of things to come.


New York Daily News: "Time drags in 'Hour'"

Let's do the good news first:

Manhattan Theater Club has refurbished the Biltmore Theater splendidly. I cannot ever remember a time when the Biltmore did not seem a dump. As a result, when there were threats it might be demolished it was hard to get indignant.

Given how elegantly it has been restored, I realize what a loss this would have been. It is a beautifully proportioned theater, sizable but intimate. Its decor is genuinely celebratory.

Which makes it all the more puzzling why, to inaugurate its new home, MTC has chosen a play as messy as Richard Greenberg's "The Violet Hour!' Like his best play, "Three Days of Rain," "Violet" is about how one generation perceives an earlier one.

"Violet" is set in 1919, when a wealthy young World War I vet sets up a publishing house and debates whether his first effort will be a long novel by his best friend or the memoir of his mistress, a light-skinned African- American chanteuse.

The first act, where these characters are "established," is almost unendurably contrived. In the second act, the publisher reads works about himself and his authors by late-20th-century scholars, a witty juxtaposition.

To work the play should have a clear sense of the present and the past, but only Robert Sean Leonard, as the publisher, gives us a sense of the genial starchiness of that time.

Scott Foley and Dagmara Dominczyk, who are supposed to evoke Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, are utterly bland. Nor is anything provocative about Robin Miles' nightclub singer.

Mario Cantone plays a homosexual who works in the office in 1919 as if he were a latter-day screaming queen, which deprives him of any dignity or mystery, diminishing the drama.

The play is so badly directed one might imagine it were in an early stage of revision or rehearsal. Like Greenberg's early "The Author's Voice," this play has wit, whimsy and imagination, but here everything suffers because it lacks coherence.

The best thing about it, apart from Leonard's performance, is Christopher Barreca's spectacularly detailed period set, hauntingly lit by Donald Holder. Jane Greenwood's costumes also project the period perfectly - if only the actors did.

New York Daily News

New York Post: "Violet Hour Is A Big Waste Of Time"

Oops! Never mind - there will be other openings and other shows.

Lynne Meadows' Manhattan Theater Club has just acquired a handsome new Broadway home, the sumptuously refurbished Biltmore Theater.

Unfortunately, this Broadway beachhead was inaugurated last night not with a bang but a whimper - Richard ("Take Me Out") Greenberg's opaque and dismal "The Violet Hour."

The setting is the cluttered office of a young, untried New York publisher, John Pace Seavering, on April 1,1919. The date is apt, for the play itself - a symbol wrapped in a metaphor - is the feeblest April Fool’s jape I've ever encountered in the theater.

The story is frameworked (so loosely the word "ramshackle" comes to mind) upon novelist Scott Fitzgerald; his wife, Zelda, and his editor/publisher Maxwell Perkins.

That's the inner or submerged tale, including some intriguing hints of homosexuality, though I doubt whether Fitzgerald would have asked to be, as it were, "taken out." The outer story is even less interesting.

Seavering (Robert Sean Leonard), a rich boy of presently limited means, is starting a publishing house, but can afford to publish only one book. What should it be?

There's a huge tome called "The Violet Hour" by Denis McCleary (Scott Foley), Seavering's college chum, whose girlfriend, Rosamund Plinth (Dagmara Dominczyk), can persuade her meat-packing baron father to consent to their marriage only if McCleary gets published.

Their chosen alternative - if Seavering refuses to publish his old friend - appears to be to jump together from a high floor of the Plaza Hotel.

The other contender for publication is Seavering's secret mistress, the famous black chanteuse Jessie Brewster (Robin Miles, who famously took over from Jasmine Guy in previews), who wants to publish her memoirs.

Who will win? One can hardly wait . . . but wait we do.

There's a fifth character in the play, Seavering's odd office factotum, Gidger, who's so camp he raises the concept of epicene to astral dimensions.

It is Gidger who - in a hernia-provoking plot twist - discovers that the huge machine mysteriously deposited in Seavering's hallway is spewing out pages from books published as many as 80 years in the future.

Leapin' lizards! Seavering can see what will result from his publishing Book A or Book B. What will he do now? Invent science fiction, perhaps.

The best thing about the production, slackly directed by Evan Yionoulis, is the monumental setting by Christopher Barreca and the chic period costumes by Jane Greenwood.

As the bookish hero, Leonard looks so abjectly downcast that his acting appears frozen. Both TV hunk Foley, in his Broadway debut, and Dominczyk do very well, even surprisingly well under the circumstances, as the novelist and his would-be wife.

Miles is capable enough, yet not much more, as Jessie and, as Gidger, an abrasive Mario Cantone is as outrageously awful as the role.

The good thing is that the Biltmore, dark since 1987, is now reopened, and the Manhattan Theater Club is on Broadway. Mazel tov!

New York Post

New York Times: "Jazz Generation Sees the Future: It's Not Cool"

The gods who govern the fortunes of playwrights are an arbitrary lot, stroking with one hand, smiting with the other. In the last year, they have mostly been stroking Richard Greenberg, the lyrical, thoughtful dramatist whose wonderful new work, "The Violet Hour," opened last night in a less than wonderful production at the Biltmore Theater. It is, not incidentally, a play about the waywardness of destiny and how it tarnishes the golden and the gifted.

Let it be stated for the record that this "Violet Hour" is not the shipwreck it was rumored to be. But while the invaluable Robert Sean Leonard gives a glowing central performance, no one else in this production begins to match the luminosity of Mr. Greenberg's writing. It's a cautionary example of the funk that descends when bad casting happens to good plays.

But first a little of the production's eventful backstory: Mr. Greenberg, who has been laboring tirelessly and fruitfully in the vineyards of drama for two decades, won a mantelful of big-time awards for the artfully mounted, vibrantly acted Broadway incarnation of "Take Me Out," his look at pride and prejudice in professional baseball. At the same time, waiting in the wings - well, in Chicago –was another, even better play by Mr. Greenberg, which I had the good luck to see in a superlative staging by Terry Kinney for the Steppenwolf Theater Company.

That was "The Violet Hour," which had already been chosen as the inaugural show for the fancy new digs of the Manhattan Theater Club, the beautifully restored Biltmore Theater, built in 1925 and highly appropriate for a play set on the cusp of the jazz age. The director, Evan Yionoulis, is a frequent collaborator of Mr. Greenberg's and staged the play's premiere at the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif. Mr. Greenberg seemed securely ensconced on Olympus.

But rehearsals had scarcely begun when the sort of stories that freeze a producer's blood started creeping into newspapers. The show shed one of its two actresses, then the other. (The entire cast numbers only five.) First to go was Laura Benanti, a critics' favorite from "Nine" and "Into the Woods."

Then there was the highly publicized departure of Jasmine Guy, the former sitcom star, who left after seeming to lose her character and her concentration in front of a preview audience.

In the wake of all the frenzy, the finished product feels, well, unfinished. And what should have been an apotheosis of a fine playwright instead registers as just another opening of another show in a so-so season.

This is truly a shame. Like much of Mr. Greenberg's writing, this comic drama might be described as a work of serious whimsy, of glittering style and dark substance, and it requires a delicate hand to capture its elusive essence.

As in "Three Days of Rain" and "Everett Beekin," Mr. Greenberg is pondering the fluid, shifting dialogue between the past and the present, the present and the future. For "The Violet Hour," he appropriately applies this theme to a generation famous for its self-consciousness about its place in history: the young Americans who began their adult lives in the aftermath of World War I and who were mythologized by Gertrude Stein as the Lost Generation.

Without merely piggybacking on fabled names or historical archetypes, Mr. Greenberg patterns most of his main characters on well-known models from the period. John Pace Seavering (Mr. Leonard), a rich Princeton graduate who in 1919 is starting his own publishing house in Manhattan, inevitably brings to mind Maxwell Perkins, the brilliant, gentlemanly book editor.

In turn, John's best friend, Denis McCleary (Scott Foley), a brashly romantic novelist who sees himself as an outsider in a world of privilege, recalls one of Perkins's most famous writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald (with a dash of the logorrheic Thomas Wolfe, for good measure). Denis's fiance, Rosamund Plinth (Dagmara Dominczyk), a dangerously neurotic heiress of eccentric charm and beauty, of course suggests Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda.

Jessie Brewster (Robin Miles), a worldly, seductive African-American chanteuse who wants John to publish her memoirs, is a more self-destructive, somber variation on Josephine Baker. The fifth character, Gidger (Mario Cantone), John's overeducated assistant, is notable because he will not have - and knows he will not have - any place in the annals of history.

The play's plot-propelling conflict centers on whether John will choose Denis's novel or Jessie's autobiography as his first venture in publishing. The decision is complicated by the arrival of a literal deus ex machina in his manuscript-cluttered office: a printing press that spews out pages of books from the future, many of which deal with John and his friends.

This machine is a not-inappopriate device for a play set in an age that was obsessed with the marvels and perils of technology. (Think H. G. Wells, or Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Stories magazine.) The wonder of "The Violet Hour" is how it melts from clever, fantastical period pastiche into a poignant and profound portrait of how time ultimately makes fools of everyone, even visionaries determined to control their own legends.

For "The Violet Hour" to work completely, each cast member must so convincingly inhabit the era in which the play is set that when the future intrudes, their natural grace turns awkward. As John puts it, they all start "to sound like the past." There should be a sense of people metamorphosing before your eyes from living color into faded sepia tones.

While the play's set (by Christopher Barreca), costumes (Jane Greenwood) and especially its lighting (Donald Holder) all do their part in creating this effect, the acting is another matter, with one blessed exception. Mr. Leonard, fresh from his fine performance in "Long Day's Journey Into Night," is fast becoming one of Broadway's most estimable actors. And he doesn't disappoint here.

Looking like an aristocratic version of the Arrow Shirt man, Mr. Leonard delivers Mr. Greenberg's filigree sentences as easily as he breathes. And he balances patrician Princetonian wit and confidence with just a flicker of self-doubt that prepares you for what's to come. But when he's exchanging arch, breezy dialogue with the other performers, it's like watching a tennis pro playing with beginners.

The others are not so much incompetent as ill suited to their parts. Mr. Foley, of the television series "Scrubs," evokes none of the character's quixotic desperation, and his line readings sound fatally contemporary. The beautiful Ms. Domincyzk improves on her recent wooden performance in "Enchanted April," but her singsong siren's voice lacks the necessary hints of combustibility.

Ms. Miles, who took over from Ms. Guy barely two weeks ago as the regal singer, comes off better, though she still (quite understandably) exudes a tentativeness at odds with her character's self-willed imperiousness. (She also seems too young for the part.) And Mr. Cantone, an often funny comic actor who originated his part, disastrously tips the production's tragicomic balance by playing a repressed, anal-retentive character in the style of Jerry Lewis at his most adenoidal.

Even with a dream cast, "The Violet Hour" wouldn't be flawless, though its first act almost is. In the second act, it occasionally overreaches in jokes built on the culture clashes of past and future. Overall, though, it skillfully balances heights of wit with depths of feeling. And the language throughout is gorgeous (the title, for example, refers to "the wonderful New York hour when the evening's about to reward you for the day"). Among his peers, only Tony Kushner matches Mr. Greenberg in linguistic richness and playfulness.

Theatergoers who lament the absence of original American plays should make a point of seeing "The Violet Hour." They should also be prepared to make generous allowances for a cast that has been beset by problems and may get better in time.

By the way, the conventional wisdom that Broadway stages provide the most sophisticated productions of any in the country doesn't hold true here.

Seeing the Manhattan Theater Company's interpretation after the one in Chicago, I had my own I disorienting sense of time travel: I felt I had been transported into a community theater in the not-too-distant future.

New York Times

Newsday: "The Violet Hour"

Imagine, if you can, the most luscious episode of "The Twilight Zone." The people are fresh, beautiful and brilliant. The time, April 1919, is filled with promise and idealism. Our hero -- Robert Sean Leonard as the blissfully elegant child of money and Princeton -- has returned from the Great War to start his own publishing house. "The century is so young, and all the worst things have happened," says this John Pace Seavering, flush with the wonders of privilege, certainty and complicated appetites.

And yet . . . This is the beguiling world of "The Violet Hour," Richard Greenberg's rich, if a bit thin, time-machine tragicomedy, which opens the Manhattan Theatre Club's new Broadway wing Thursday night at the ravishingly restored Biltmore Theatre. Greenberg, of course, is the wildly prolific, robustly literate playwright who won the Tony Award last season for "Take Me Out," generally referred to as the gay baseball play. For fans who like stats, "The Violet Hour" now makes him the first American in more than a decade to have two plays on Broadway simultaneously.

Anyone who knows Greenberg only from "Take Me Out," however, should know that was probably his least typical work. "Violet Hour," MTC's seventh Greenberg premiere, is much more firmly in the tradition of "The Dazzle" and, especially, his lean, luminous "Three Days of Rain" -- work that struggles with our intriguing and frustrating inability to know how things become what they are.

This time, the solutions are magical instead of merely dramatic -- a concept that, at times, seems as much of a cheat as a grand invention. That is, while Greenberg's characters are bouncing off one another with his restless, gorgeously written observations about life, love and literati, a mysterious machine is delivered to the anteroom beyond the vaulting mess of an unfinished Manhattan office (designed with a sense of the century's cavernous possibilities by Christopher Barreca).

Despite two last-minute female cast changes and gossip about troubled rehearsals, Evan Yionoulis' production is handsome and devoid of obvious blood on the walls. Leonard, rapidly becoming the theater's leading poet-hero, imbues John with all the confidence and lanky seductiveness of classy rebellion. This is a man of vision, though when the contraption next door spews pages from his own future, he is both appalled and devastated by the century he sees.

The other character who reads the pages is more problematic. This is John's flamboyant assistant, Gidger, a potentially touching inside-outsider, probably gay, though he may not know it. Greenberg gives Gidger a long, almost irrelevant monologue at the start, which Mario Cantone is encouraged to play with all the prissy outrageousness of a cliche.

This overstated fellow feels tonally out of place with the wistful, sensitive quirkiness of "Violet Hour," named for a different sort of twilight zone, what Denis McCleary, John's college pal and a would-be novelist, calls "that New York hour when the evening is about to reward you for the day." Denis, played with graceful psychological muscularity by Scott Foley, is meant to be inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald, while John is suggested by his publisher, Maxwell Perkins.

Dagmara Dominczyk, replacing Laura Benanti, has a lovely, erratic command as Rosamund Plinth, the unstable heiress based, in part, on Fitzgerald's Zelda, while Robin Miles, the late replacement for Jasmine Guy, is formidably erotic as Jessie Brewster, the famous black singer engaged in a delightfully dangerous affair with the patrician publisher.

Rosamund supposedly has what she calls "presentiments," visions of the future that we come to see as violent mood swings. But the real future comes from the other room, where pages are flying, as if from a cartoon.

By the second act, the future is piled up in the present like land mines that cannot be defused.

That violet hour, the one with all the delicious promise, is also 1919, when these people believe themselves to be on the brink of everything they deserve. Donald Holder's lights know just how hard to press the color metaphor, and Jane Greenwood's costumes for the women suggest they are perched between Edwardian expectations and the exuberant freedom of flappers.

Can John change the future by making different choices, by deciding to publish his friend's sprawling novel or what he believes to be the true autobiography of his lover? Do we care about such stock make-believe literalness?

What we do care about is Greenberg and his singular characters. As Denis says, "The really big problem with Broadway theater today is you always know what's going to happen." The really big Greenberg gift to the theater is that we always care, and we never know.


Variety: "The Violet Hour"

Richard Greenberg's "The Violet Hour" was probably the ideal choice to inaugurate Manhattan Theater Club's new Broadway home at the Biltmore Theater. The latest play from the author of "Take Me Out" is a chamber piece that muses on the elusive intersections between the past, the present and the future, so there's a pleasing serendipity in seeing it staged at the intimate, impeccably restored Biltmore. Just a few years ago, the theater was an empty shell with a distinguished past and a questionable future. Now the smell of paint and new upholstery fills the lobby, fresh gilt gleams from the proscenium. The bustle of activity on a recently gloomy stretch of 47th Street provides happy testament to the theater's admirable ability to shape its artistic future by resurrecting its past.

But one of the poignant themes of Greenberg's play is destiny's tendency to play funny tricks, and this truth is borne out, unhappily, by what's on the Biltmore stage. The sad news is that this ideal play for the occasion has not arrived in an ideal production -- probably through no fault of the artists involved.

As has been widely reported, the two female roles (in a play of just five characters) are not being played by the women originally cast. Laura Benanti left during rehearsals due to "artistic differences," and an ailing Jasmine Guy was replaced by her understudy, Robin Miles, during previews. Such disruptions inevitably take a toll on the smooth development of a production.

Miles and Benanti's replacement, Dagmara Dominczyk, are perfectly adequate, and their co-stars, Scott Foley, Mario Cantone and the inestimable Robert Sean Leonard, are likewise talented performers giving polished and appealing performances. But the production has a mottled, pieced-together quality that is particularly damaging to this delicate, complex play, which may just be Greenberg's finest.

Although it is set in the past, "The Violet Hour" has an unmistakably contemporary sensibility. There is much comedy, but the overriding tone is melancholy. The style is naturalistic, with a flagrantly fantastic twist. And Greenberg's dialogue is alternately earthbound and bewitchingly rhapsodic.

Director Evan Yionoulis, who staged the play's well-received world-premiere production at South Coast Repertory in California, has not been able to blend this challenging tapestry of textures together to create an artful, emotionally resonant whole. The snappy comedy steps on the feet of the philosophical musings, and the lyrical flights proves daunting to some of the performers, who are not uniformly able to discover in Greenberg's intricate language the emotional core of their characters. Overall, it's as if a lovely poem has been translated deflatingly into prose.

A haunting tale of a man given a chance to foresee the consequences of his actions, "The Violet Hour" might almost be titled "It's Not Such a Wonderful Life." Greenberg has concocted an ingenious time-travel story with a novel twist: Instead of characters being magically transported to the past or future, the future itself is transported to the past here, through a sort of mystical fax machine that arrives one day at the office of budding publisher John Pace Seavering (Leonard).

Seavering has just set up shop in somewhat dingy digs in Manhattan. The year is 1919, and this recent Princeton grad hopes to become the conduit for voices of the Lost Generation. He's filled with a sense of immense possibility -- the result of his youth, his comfortable upbringing and the aftermath of the Great War. Asked how he comes by his enthusiasm, he says, "I think it's because the century's still so young ... and all the worst things have already happened in it."

But Seavering is already becoming aware of the limits that life might place on ambition. He only has enough money to publish one book, and he is faced with two strong contenders -- both of which come with knotty personal strings attached. His college pal Denis McCleary (Foley) has written a precocious magnum opus that Seavering warmly admires. When Denis arrives to lobby for it, he reveals that more than just a literary debut is at stake: He has fallen passionately in love with an heiress, Rosamund Plinth (Dominczyk), who will be forced to marry a more suitable suitor if McCleary can't prove he's got promise.

On the other hand, Seavering is equally enamored of the autobiography of a fashionable black singer, Jessie Brewster (Miles). And his loyalty to her is possibly even stronger than his affection for Denis -- they're having a tempestuous affair.

An idealist who believes he's destined for great things, Seavering is hesitant to make a choice: He's paralyzed by his belief that the future is his to shape -- "and I don't want to mess that up!," he cries.

Indeed, all the characters in the play evince a touching belief in the profound importance of the present moment -- Denny delivers a rhapsodic description of what he calls the "violet hour," the time when "the evening's about to reward you for the day." Greenberg has a tender regard for his characters' impassioned sense that beauty and meaning and happiness are immanent in the world and must be grasped before they can escape. Rosamund, for example, is convinced that she and Denny "are the only happiness that will ever be possible to each other."

Those words take on an acute poignance in the play's increasingly somber second act. While Seavering has been wrestling with his decision, his assistant Gidger (Cantone) has been confronting his own demon, namely the peculiar machine, provenance unknown, that has arrived at the office and begun spewing out piles of printed paper. The first act closes with Gidger and Seavering's startled discovery that these are dispatches -- pages of books -- written many years in the future.

As act two opens, Gidger and Seavering sit amid neat stacks of paper, absorbing the news of the century to come. Greenberg exploits the rich comic possibilities in this scenario primarily through the character of Gidger, a flamboyant, histrionic fellow -- played to the ahistorical hilt, and then some, by Cantone -- who is steamed to discover that one of his favorite words, "gay," will acquire a new, exclusive meaning in the years to come. (He's also outraged that none of the books detailing the respectable life of prominent publisher John Pace Seavering make reference to him.)

But Seavering is unnerved by more upsetting revelations: He learns that his decision to publish Denis' book did not lead to the expected marital bliss, and that Jessie has been harboring secrets that will one day destroy her. How to proceed in the light of this burdensome knowledge? Can the future be undone?

Marvelous writing abounds here. Greenberg often has displayed an irksome tendency to bestow his own wit and erudition on his characters indiscriminately, lending them the two-dimensional quality of smart mouthpieces. Here he largely tames that flaw, finding voices for his characters that, while still eloquent, are specific to their emotional predicaments (the one exception might be Jessie, whose wry, archly sophisticated voice doesn't always ring true). The play is continually amusing, but also deeply touching in his juxtaposition of the disillusion forced upon Seavering with the hopefulness of his compatriots.

And yet "The Violet Hour," as staged here, never reaches the heights you keep hoping for. Leonard is dependably fine, as always, communicating with economical grace the anguish in Seavering's dilemma. And the other actors all have fine moments, too. But the play needs a little bit of magic -- a Proustian daydream poised halfway between reality and fantasy, it probably would require a production of immense sensitivity to be entirely persuasive.

Yionoulis' production, while attractive, may be too earthbound -- the set by Christopher Barreca could use less specificity, and Jane Greenwood's costumes are perhaps too period-perfect, particularly for the female characters. Even the lighting by Donald Holder, gorgeous as it is, is perhaps too generous in its literal-minded applications of the title color. These are small matters, of course, but they contribute to the general sense that a painting best suited to watercolors has been rendered in oils: You can admire the beauty of the composition, but it leaves you unmoved.


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