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‘Lydie Breeze, Part One: Bullfinch’s Mythology’
Blackbird Theatre, 1600 Pauline, Ann Arbor. Thu.-Sat., through Oct. 14. Tickets: $18. For information: 734-332-3848 or http://www.blackbirdtheatre.biz.
Like the idealistic characters in John Guare’s “Lydie Breeze, Part One: Bullfinch’s Mythology,” the talented folks at Ann Arbor’s Blackbird Theatre have started their fourth season with one heck of a grand adventure.
But neither is as successful as they originally planned. Because if there’s a single lesson to be learned from both the story and this production, it’s this: Idealism gets you only so far in life.
What idealists often forget in their quest for perfection is the human factor – that is, the innate ability of flesh and blood human beings to mess things up. And if nothing else, theater-folk certainly are idealists!
What Lydie Breeze didn’t count on in her quest to build a utopian society was the fact that men generally can’t share the woman they love with other men – at least not without jealousy eventually rearing its ugly head. And in their intimate community, Lydie was more than just the leader who kept the pack together.
A nurse during the Civil War, Lydie carefully selected three wounded soldiers to help form a commune on Nantucket Island. Now, seven years later, their rebellion against greed and corruption has left them destitute – and the laughing stock of greater Boston. Plus, there’s considerable unrest among its members: Lydie’s return to nursing is botched by her political views; the enormous tome written by her husband Joshua has been rejected by his publisher; and Amos – who’s had to do most of the work around the property – wants to leave and attend Harvard Law School.
Their beliefs are soon challenged by the return of long-missing Dan Grady who brings with him a bag of ill-gotten cash. Is the money the answer to their prayers? Or are their lives about to be changed forever?
The answer, of course, is revealed in the opening moments of Act Two – and it won’t be what you expected. Neither is its ending.
The decision to produce “Lydie Breeze” – Part One this season and Part Two next – is yet more proof that this energetic and idealistic theater is unafraid to challenge both themselves and their audience by staging thoughtful plays that do more than simply entertain. Yet despite the interpretive skills of director Lynch Travis and a team of talented actors, the challenge for the audience this past Saturday wasn’t with the material, but with its delivery.
That’s because for some unfathomable reason, actors Barton Bund (Joshua) and Ahmed Muslimani (Amos) delivered most of their lines as if they needed to cut a half hour from the show. (Did they need to be somewhere else at 11 o’clock?) So rather than use the playwright’s powerful words to build dramatic tension, they simply upped their speed of delivery – and totally forgot that diction matters. (The often overlapping and concurrent dialogue only made matters worse.)
And finally, what’s so hard about bringing a show to an obvious conclusion? Once again this weekend that didn’t happen. It took actor Jon Bennett during the curtain call to tell us so!