Couples

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  June 19, 2007

Of a subtler hue is Lucia’s Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, the first work by deconstructionist geniuses Mabou Mines to come our way in years. Written and directed by Emerson grad Sharon Fogarty — now a co–artistic director of the 37-year-old New York–based experimental collective — and dominated by scrunch-eyed goddess and Mines co-founder Ruth Maleczech, the 70-minute work combines text, performance, and evocative projection to imagine the death-in-life and life-in-death of dancer/artist Lucia Joyce, who flirted with Beckett and sat on the lap of Ezra Pound but was institutionalized at age 28 and spent the next 37 years in asylums. Maleczech, a mischievous white-haired seductress in a sea-blue gown, portrays this elderly, possibly ectoplasmic prodigy — who’s mostly confined to a chair as projections float by her — as ethereal yet surprisingly earthy. “Bad news, I’m dead,” she announces at the get-go, in an amplified purr that can jump like a cat from whisper to snarl.

The opportunity to experience the legendary Maleczech reading an ad circular would have been a privilege for the few hundred souls who had the chance last weekend to do so. Her portrayal of the neurotic daughter adored but neglected by Joyce — who drew some of his famous wordplay from her odd way of combining unrelated phonemes into “portmanteau” words — is technically masterful yet filled with sly coquetry and plaintive appeal (when will someone come to “collect” her?) knocking up against paranoid hauteur and genuine terror. A naughty prima donna shakily sucking a cigarette, she confides to us, her visitors in Limbo, “I like to smoke, and it costs a lot.”

But Lucia’s Chapters is itself a profound and balletic conjuration. In Julie Archer’s projection design, mostly black and white images, including birds and a boat and various abstractions, stream through Lucia’s consciousness, which is dominated by the disturbing shadow of her father — a bowler-topped silhouette that occasionally rises to dance or sing (as does Lucia, lumbering shakily or warbling breathlessly). Joyce, in the bow-tied person of Paul Kandel, eventually takes corporeal form, slipping into a narrow vertical box to read his daughter’s eulogy — a sad history that’s projected in layer upon layer of printed text, hemming father and daughter into a maze of words. The former approaches the latter for a delighted and then tender reunion whose conspiratorial nothings take the form of Joycean babble, some of it lifted from Finnegans Wake. And then Lucia enters the “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s,” no longer “drowning,” as Jung diagnosed, but swirling and swimming like the dancer/mermaid she perceives herself to be.

Gay marriage has been the subject of drama in the legislature. At Gloucester Stage, in Our Son’s Wedding, which is in its world premiere (through June 24), it’s the subject of sit-com that aspires to poignance. Michael, a decorator whose clients include the Ritz Carlton, is getting married in that luxe Boston hotel to analyst David, and Mary, Michael’s cagy Italian-American mom from the Bronx, has engaged in various deceptive practices to force his coarse plumber dad, Angelo, to attend. The play begins off stage with Angelo’s frustrated soliloquy to a card key and ends with his surrender to male sensitivity and marital romance. Exiting for the ceremony following 90 minutes of sturm, drang, and dressing that includes visits by both grooms in battlefield deshabillé, Angelo calls his long-time handler/helpmeet “sweetheart” — a soubriquet previously reserved for top-of-the-line washing machines. Sweet, but I didn’t buy it, for all the hilarious nuance and nicely controlled energy of artistic director Eric C. Engel’s well-acted production.

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