'Garden' untamed

Rover debuts with feisty Albee tale

07/06/2001

By Lawson Taitte / The Dallas Morning News

ADDISON Even with all the renewed interest in Edward Albee over the last six years, there's still a lot of territory ripe for exploration. In its very first production, the enterprising new theater company Rover Dramawerks has unearthed one of the rarest Albee gems.

PERFORMANCE INFORMATION

Everything in the Garden, presented by Rover Dramawerks at the Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison, Thursdays through Saturdays through July 21. Tickets $10 to $14. Call 214-796-9246.

A miserable flop when it opened on Broadway nearly 40 years ago, Everything in the Garden looks positively prophetic today. This moral fable about a suburban matron, Jenny (Carol M. Rice), who becomes an expensive prostitute takes all kinds of twists and turns. You can find in it seeds of Albee plays from A Delicate Balance to the recent The Play About the Baby.

Director Brad McEntire has assembled a cast that would seem a far cry from the gilded aging yuppies of Albee's imaginary world. But once you get past the unlikely ages and accents, you find a production that captures the ferocity of the playwright's vision.

Jenny and her husband, Richard (Steve Roberts), have been fighting over money for a long time. They can't make ends meet on his scientist's salary. Things really get interesting when Richard figures out how Jenny has been supplementing their income. The resulting brawl makes George and Martha from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf look like amateurs.

Ms. Rice and Mr. Roberts, sometimes shaky in their characterizations earlier in the play, plumb Mr. Albee's savage depths. This production often fails to convey the writer's elegance. Eventually it doesn't matter.

Jane Willingham turns in a perfect performance as Mrs. Toothe, the icily diabolical bawd with a cultured English accent. The one role seriously marred by a discrepancy between character and actor is Jenny's filthy-rich admirer, Jack. Chip Gilliam manages a breezy nonchalance, but it's not fair to use a college junior in this role. It's the most difficult in the play, since Jack's speeches to the audience are almost as annoying as those in the impossibly arch Play About the Baby .


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