Regional Reviews: New Jersey
Wan Fiction at the Bickford
Also see Bob's review of Melissa Arctic
Novelists Michael and Linda have been married for twenty years. Linda has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Michael accedes to her desire to read his personal diaries before she dies (surely he will read hers after her death). Linda reads of Michael's account of his long ago sexual dalliance with Abby whom he met at a writer's retreat.
There is a prologue involving Michael and Linda's first meeting (at a café in Paris). They are already contentious. He asks "Where did the afternoon go?" She responds, "Nowhere, nowhere at all." As the play moves back and forth through time, the actors never change in appearance or fashion. Although being in the throes of chemotherapy following brain surgery, Linda remains attractive and mentally unimpaired throughout. Abby looks like a teenager well over a decade after her first appearance. A surfeit of plot contrivances in the second act prevent Fiction from rising above the status of light entertainment.
Issues and relationships which resonated and grabbed one's attention in the McCarter world premiere and a later Roundabout production fade away here. Director Daniel LaPenta has so under-staged the play that it practically disappears before our eyes. The pace is slack and there is hardly any modulation (the flat line image on a heart monitor after a patient dies comes to mind).
Dennis Rodgers, who was outstanding in his last New Jersey role in Mauritius, doesn't strike any false notes, but his Michael is dull and diffident. Pretty much the same can be said of Jen Plants' Linda. Kate Kenney as Abby adds flat, unnatural line readings to the production's litany of ills.
Fiction performed through through March 29, 2009 at the Bickford Theatre (in the Morris Museum), 6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, NJ 07960.
Fiction by Stephen Dietz; directed by Daniel LaPenta