By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Only quibbles with Titanic are over technical things. Most of the costumes designed by Billie Boston are head-to-toe black. Against the all-black set, this occasionally makes the white-glove-clad crew members and passengers look like they're singing in a minstrel show. All that light-sucking black-against-black must have been a nightmare for the lighting designer, the ironically named Susan A. White, but she's done a good job keeping the actors illuminated. Also, small detail, but somebody needs to mop the dust off the black stage floor before curtain time.
A show this big is sink or swim for any theater company. But by ingeniously placing the emphasis on spectacular performances instead of special effects, Lyric Stage makes its production of Titanic a night to remember.
Quad C director Gail Cronauer and her cast of student actors make this play so much better than it deserves to be. They give the characters nice edge, as well as dignity. They also infuse the dialogue with some emotional heft and a lot of humor, which Echo failed to do for the most part.
Sarah Saunders plays Theresa, a Manhattan magazine writer who politely dumps a blind date, Tony (James Dougherty). He turns out to be a nutzoid who won't take no for an answer. He stalks Theresa till she's forced to quit her job, change her name and move away to escape his threats. Pretty much your basic Lifetime movie, which playwright Gilman jokes about even within her overlong, overwrought two-act play.
What's nice here is that Saunders interprets the role of Theresa as a tightly wound but very nice know-it-all, not the flinty bitch that she might be. That's important because the audience needs to rev up some sympathy for her as Tony's stalking tactics get scarier. By the end, we need to care deeply about Theresa, and with Saunders we do. In the Echo production, the actress playing Theresa was so unlikable, the audience was rooting for the stalker to find his prey and slice her to ribbons.
Also good at Quad C are Nima Farkhak as Theresa's editor, Howard, and Duc Nguyen as Mercer, "the new guy" on staff at the magazine. Both actors show remarkable ease at working in the intimate space in the Black Box Theatre. Erin Phalon is a caution as the miniskirted, taffy-brained secretary, Harriet, who unwittingly aids the stalker in his pursuit. Mary Eilts is lovely as a compassionate cop trying to protect Theresa from Tony. Only one role comes up short. Nicolas Flowers is about 50 years too young to be playing the septuagenarian pornographer, Les, whom Theresa begrudgingly interviews and then befriends. Still, even miscast, Flowers works some much-needed laughs into the grim scenes he shares with Theresa.
Big ups, too, to sound designer Adam DeWitt for a witty soundtrack throughout the play. When Theresa and Tony's first date hits a dead spot and conversation falters, up comes the Beatles' "Help!" The audience gets a nice giggle out of that one.