THEATER REVIEW: The Violet Hour 

Acts of Violet: Engaged writing and quirky plot make for entertaining night of theater

The Violet Hour
Presented by the Footlight Players
March 13-15, 20-22 8 p.m.
March 16, 3 p.m.
$25-$1520 Queen St.
(843) 722-4487

Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour is not everything it seems. Set in 1919, in the disorganized publishing office of our protagonist, John Pace Seavering, the play at first appears to be a simple tale of his quandary: With only enough money to publish one book to make his mark, he must choose between the existential work of his closest friend and his secret lover's autobiography.

Were those the limits of the plot devices, you might already know what's going to happen. Fortunately, Greenberg has never been one to produce such an easy-to-figure-out tale. Director Michael Hamburg's skillful work, another near-perfect set by Richard Heffner, and accurate period costumes by Cherie May all meld together allowing the talented cast to produce an entertaining night of theater that builds a solid foundation upon which to lay its unexpected twists.

It is not perfect theater, but it does serve to illustrate the type of work Footlight should produce more often. Like Accomplice before it, this play has secrets that will not be revealed here. Yet this is the type of edgy play that can appeal to a wide range of audiences. It shows that more than just the tried-and-true theater can be successfully staged in our area.

There were two, or perhaps three minor distractions, that served to prevent applying such adjectives as "flawless" to the production. Seavering's office is set in downtown Manhattan with a large window that looks out into a clear sky. There should be buildings in the distance to see, but the set designer cited technical and spatial difficulties in completing the illusion of location. Also, Todd Ashby, in the role of Seavering, is on stage almost the entire show, and appears a little stiff in his role.

Finally, there is lack of passion between him and his secret lover, a black jazz singer named Jessie Brewster, played well by Yvonne Broaddus. While both Ashby and Broaddus handle their roles well, it's impossible, given the lack of chemistry, to believe they are in love.

The lack of chemistry is easily overcome by the quality of the cast. The star-crossed lovers, budding novelist Denis McCleary and wealthy heiress Rasamund Plinth, played by Ted Rice and Amber Mann, are passionate about one another. Mann is driven as the manic socialite and leaves little doubt about the state of her sanity. A last minute replacement in the show, she is every inch the rich spoiled girl, yet still she manages to be a pitiable creature for whom we cannot help but feel sympathy.

Rice is at his best in the second act as he delivers the strongest monologue in the play. As he recites a letter being read by Seavering, Rice is allowed to show all of the regrets and sorrows his life has brought him, but still holds onto the love he once felt for his now-estranged wife.

Hilarious throughout the play is Bill Terranova as Seavering's assistant, Gidger. His transformation from high strung, underappreciated flunky to melancholy flunky whose dog is destined to achieve more fame than he, Gidger humorously carries the weight of the world on his shoulders and despairs that no one can appreciate the depths of his sacrifice.


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