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Theatre Review (LA): The Violet Hour by Richard Greenberg at Theatre Tribe

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Richard Greenberg, one of America’s best young writers, has plays being produced on Broadway and in regional theaters across the land. A new production of The Violet Hour, one of his latest plays, is now at the Theatre Tribe Theatre. The Theatre Tribe is a company of actors under the guidance of Stuart Rogers who, in additional to teaching classes, is the director of the new production.

The plot involves a young publisher, John-Pace Seavering (Thomas Burr), who must choose which of two books he will publish. One, The Violet Hour, is by his dear friend Denis McCleary (Jeff Kerr McGivney), who must get his book published in order to marry the rich woman he loves, Rosamund Plinth (Elizabeth O’Brick). The other is an autobiography by Seavering’s mistress Jessie Brewster (Angelle Brooks).

Meanwhile Seavering’s clerk (Kyle Colerider-Krugh) carries in a mysterious printing press that spews pages that turn out to be from the future. This enables Seavering to learn what is to happen to everyone concerned, but his attempts to change the future are to no avail, so he decides to go with the flow of time. As is often the case with Greenberg’s plays, the characters reference persons who actually lived, in this case Josephine Baker and Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

It has been said that a bad play can be saved by good actors. Sad to say, the performances I saw here were perhaps fit for television but lacked any sense of theatrical truth and size. Thomas Burr delivered most of his lines in a dreary monotone. By contrast, Colerider-Krugh’s way over-the-top performance was, at least for the first half hour, shouted. The women fared better; though Brooks was in danger of being upstaged by a hat, she had a nice scene in the second act that showed some chops. O’Brick had a harder time of it; her character was unstable (Zelda Fitzgerald), and sometimes I couldn’t hear her lines. McGivney was weak in the first act but did rather nicely in the second, more dramatic act.

I wonder why Rogers chose a play that demands high style and energy when his actors weren’t up to it. But this is a company, and he probably wants to expand their reach and give them exposure to one of America’s leading playwrights. Rogers proved with last year’s Ovation-winning The Long Christmas Ride Home, which combined puppets and live action, that sometimes gambles pay off. This production, though, just doesn’t make it.

The Violet Hour plays until April 19 at The Theatre Tribe.

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