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Elegy For A Lady
Verdict: Powerful relationship playlet
London - Diorama - 10 June 05
Elegy For A Lady is a short play about relationships by Arthur Miller. There's a cast of 2 (1F, 1M). Running time is 30 minutes.
The frisky madame (Sue Scott Davison) of a clothes store entertains a customer (George Telfer) whose mistress is about to operated on for cancer, and possibly die.
Sue Scott Davison and George Telfer are actors with the gift and skill to bring out the play's profundity - there is great depth in this script by one of America's finest playwrights - and by nuance, the raising of an eyebrow, rather than histrionics. George Telfer brings a rasping growl to the troubled man; Sue Scott Davison's mellifluous voicing of the woman carries a steel edge, like a plum concealing a razor.
On one level, they hold a realistic conversation about a shop transaction (he's buying a gift for the mistress to take to hospital). At another they enact an analysis of his life, motives, desires, and the expectations of his wife and mistress. At another it's flirtation - with a heady untertow of rapacious lust.
The shop is in half-light, there's a sense of life waning. He's an older man in love with a younger woman, aware of his mortality, asleep, as he confesses, by 9.30. She's a shop proprietor, muse, conscience, and woman on fire. Will they, won't they?
There are some great lines, expertly delivered: 'What is 40 like?'/'40 is an emergency'. 'It's like a fish falling in love with the sun: the moment he breaks water he can no longer breathe'. 'There's something non-committal about a bed-jacket'.
Mike Miller gives creative and thoughtful direction. The set is minimal, lighting subtle. Action is glimpsed in a long scene, and a couple of shorts, to give excerpts of the encounter. He weaves the actors around each other, so that their positioning at any point gives a poetic underlining of the level of intimacy between them. The moods are emphasised by fragments of music that feel exactly apt.
The play brims with humility in the characters - true self-awareness, no conceit; and immensely subtle perceptions. George Telfer brings a rugged handsomeness and distressing world-weariness to the man. Sue Scott Davison, elegant in wasp-waisted Chanel and pretty from all angles (there's a lot of turning) allows her character to ripple with earthy sexuality. Both actors have a complete grip on the intricate and forceful emotions articulated in Arthur Miller's clever play.
Cast Credits: (alpha order): Woman - Sue Scott Davison. Man - George Telfer.
Company Credits: Writer - Arthur Miller. Director - Mike Miller. Technical Manager - Jamie Bale. Company - TheATRE hE, mME, mm, mm.
reviewed Friday 10 June 05 / Diorama Studio Theatre
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