The Doma Theatre Company presents Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Tony award winning musical, “Passions” at the Met Theatre. “Passions” won Tony Awards in 1994 for Best Musical, Best Book of a Music, and Best Score. Marco Gomez directed the nine member ensemble cast in the Hollywood debut of this musical, which is a chamber opera of love, infidelity and obsession. He directed his actors to emotional highs and lows effectively. Some of the performers have stellar voices while others are not up to snuff which made for an uneven performance.
Jason Henderson’s sparse set has a balcony with dual stairways and a small recessed, curtained off love nest in which the erotic scenes take place. The actors bring in a table and chairs and whatever else is needed. Brian Michael’s fine musical direction adds to the drama and the repetitive snare of drums punctuates the drama and heightens the experience.
The musical is set in Italy in 1863 and Brandy Jacobs’ fabulous period costumes establish that time frame beautifully. As the musical opens we have a bird’s eye view of the illicit lovers, Clara and Giorgio in their bed chamber in the throes of passion. The musical is a love triangle between Giorgio, a Captain who is about to join his regiment (handsome Nathaniel Reynolds), Clara, his beautiful, but older married mistress, (Melissa Cook), and Fosca, the depressed and sickly cousin of Colonel Ricci, (Lindsay Zana). Giorgio questions what love is as he undergoes the challenges of stoking the fires of passion with Clara through their love letters. The music is hauntingly beautiful and the leads all have wonderfully trained voices.
The suave Reynolds has a solid operatically trained voice, and though he was off to a slow start, he gained momentum and gave a fine performance with shadings of passion, anger, and desperation. He is smitten with Clara and believes their love is unconditional and spiritual. Cook’s Clara, with her fiery red hair and porcelain-like skin, is an enchantress who has Giorgio wrapped around her little finger. Vocally, Cook has a wide range with clear and beautiful high notes and soft and sexy low notes. Her sultry voice is well suited for this demanding role. The bright and bold coloring of Clara is well contrasted with the plain, depressing, wren-like, dark Fosca. Lindsay Zana’s neurotic obsessive-compulsive Fosca is a total contrast both visually as she was costumed in drab grey and musically with her low and urgent sounding voice. Zana did an excellent acting job in bringing this bleak character to life.
Corinne De Vries as the maid Torasso, Fosca’s mother and the mistress was an absolute delight. Her Torasso gave a much-needed comic touch to this heavy, melodramatic musical. De Vries’ Torasso balanced the passionate and dark tones of this production. Her clear-as-a-bell soprano voice was captivating and she stood out.
This musical tale of illicit and obsessive-compulsive love reminded me of “Fatal Attraction” as Fosca, filled with self-pity, and self-loathing chases after and stalks Giorgio. The direction was a bit over-the-top to the point of being laughable in a scene in which Fosca falls at Giorgio’s feet and clings to his leg like a small dog. It was a little unbelievable that he could go from feeling so smothered and having intense feelings of hatred toward Fosca to caring for her. Gomez’ direction did not give the audience a smooth transition.
Giorgio and Clara’s love is shown in the letters they write to each other, and there was some lovely staging with juxtaposition as they sang solos and duets. Fosca falls in love “at first sight” with the handsome Captain. But, her love is an unnatural, smothering and destructive. And she has no control over this dark force. Giorgio is torn between his passion for Clara, which burns deep in his soul, and the pitying love he feels for Fosca. He is made to feel responsible for her very life, which is dependent on any crumb of affection she can wring from him. Ultimately Giorgio and Fosca grow to know that real love heals and sets free. The message, “Love is letting go” made for a satisfying ending.
“Passions” at the Met Theatre located at 1089 N. Oxford Ave. Los Angeles, 90029 runs through September 11th. For show times and tickets, call 323-960-4443.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress, and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, “Tough Love2,” “America’s Court With Judge Ross,” Spike TV’s “1000 Ways to Die,” a “Teva International Pharmacy” short, the comedy-pilot, “Ghost Recon,” and Gene Simmons’ “ Family Jewels.” Audrey teaches On Camera Commercials through the City of Beverly Hills, Roxbury Park at BHHS 241 Moreno Dr. Her next class starts in October. For class information call 310-285-6850 or email to [email protected]