Gone but not forgotten

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  May 27, 2008

Of course, She Loves Me is not all about the snowballing misunderstanding between bookish pen pals and workplace spatters Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash. There is a late-life marital impasse for irascible Mr. Maraczek, a career opportunity for bicycling delivery boy Arpad Laszlo, and a lesson to be learned by sexual pushover Ilona Ritter from her interactions with fellow clerk Stephen Kodaly, a seductive lech with a dangerous yen to stir multiple pots.

At the Huntington, all these little dramas are enacted with a combination of airy innocence and musical-comedic flair. Jeremy Beck is an eager Arpad, pulling off a flying angel on the seat of his bike and jumping high hospital beds in his bravura cosmetics clerk’s audition, “Try Me.” Mark Nelson brings a warmhearted pragmatism to Ladislav Sipos, who’ll bend any which way rather than be out of a job. And as trysting, sniping second couple Ilona and Stephen, wide-eyed Jessica Stone and preening Troy Britton Johnson avoid falling over into desperate-bimbo and Latin-lover cartoon. Stone’s enthused delivery of the novelty love song “A Trip to the Library” (where she finally meets a decent guy) is not only funny but also touching.

The small ensemble, too, has its moment to shine — in the show’s only real production number, the supper-club-set “A Romantic Atmosphere.” In this Hello, Dolly!-worthy singing-and-dancing restaurant outing, the glowering head waiter played by Marc Vietor nimbly tyrannizes Jason Babinsky’s tray-dropping busboy amid a slinky horde of rendezvousing vamps and swains wittily and precisely deployed by choreographer Denis Jones.
To judge by the program notes, Martin’s aim — not so different from that of Georg and Amalia — is to make us fall in love with something we didn’t know we knew or hadn’t fully appreciated. In fact, though She Loves Me lacks the name and tune recognition of South Pacific, it is fondly, sometimes fanatically, regarded by musical theater aficionados. But even if Martin is pitching frozen treats to the Good Humor Man, this big sweet scoop of a revival goes down as easily as “Vanilla Ice Cream.”

Chekhov didn’t know what he started with those three sisters. The latest trio of grousing, unfulfilled female siblings trying to attain some metaphysical Moscow turns up in English writer Shelagh Stephenson’s 2000 Olivier Award winner, The Memory of Water, which was first produced in 1996. Way Theatre Artists is airing the work in one of the upstairs rehearsal halls at the Calderwood Pavilion (through May 31), which director Greg Maraio and set designer Julie Ohl have imaginatively turned into a messy closet/funeral parlor where bereaved and bickering Yorkshire-bred siblings Teresa, Mary, and Catherine sort through piles of dead mum Violet’s vintage clothes, along with their own melodramas and conflicting, sometimes co-opted memories. Violet’s there too, wafting through middle sister Mary’s mind swathed in early-’60s green satin and a serenity that’s welcome amid the sturm und drang.

The theme of this work is more intriguing than its execution: the title refers to the homeopathic concept that water has a sort of memory of particles dissolved in it such that, even when all trace of a curative element is removed, its healing benefit remains. “You can dilute and dilute and dilute, but the pertinent thing remains,” sums up one character, the married doctor boyfriend of neurologist Mary. The concept also pertains to Violet, who, Mary says, “goes through us like wine through water,” despite all three sisters’ grudges against the woman, whose own memory had been fractured by Alzheimer’s.

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