Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Yasmina Reza's Life x 3 is a Many-Sided Look at Modern Marriage
Life x 3 was translated from Ms. Reza's Les Trois Version de la Vie by Christopher Hampton for its opening at London's Lyttleton Theatre on December 7, 2000. After a highly successful run and great critical acclaim, it moved to the Old Vic Theatre in February 2001 for a limited 12 week run. It was so popular that it returned to the Savoy Theatre in September 2002. Imelda Staunton was in the cast of the original production. The American premiere occurred in March 2003 at the Circle in the Square where it ran for 104 performances.
Director Amy Glazer is presenting the British version of the drama, rather than the one seen in New York. The very extraordinary cast all have excellent British accents and use British phrases rather than the American ones that were used in the New York production. There are little nuances throughout the play that are very British.
The plot of the short piece is very basic. Henri and Sonia are putting their son to bed when an unexpected knock at the door throws them into disarray. Henri is an astrophysicist who hopes that his work on the dark matter of the halo of a distant galaxy will be published, thereby making him famous in the astro world. Hubert (Warren David Keith), Henri's boss, and his wife Ines (Julia Brothers) have arrived for dinner, a day earlier than expected. Henri must kowtow to his boss to get the work published and the boss is having a field day making the poor man jump through hoops. As the evening degenerates, the playwright blends cruel observations with high comedy in a hilarious and poignant examination of these four characters. Yasmina Reza is a master of the "Grand Chaos Theory" and you certainly see how one little incident can change the whole evening. She takes this same situation and works it three different ways in the three acts.
Life x 3's first scene resembles a catastrophic lifestyle farce like a Woody Allen play. In the second act, they avoid the mistakes they made in the first scene but the ending is still disastrous. The third time the characters make different decisions and the play becomes less comic and more relaxed. It's more philosophical and more mature.
Amy Glazer has assembled a fine cast of gifted actors, and they treat the play with both attention to detail and panache. They insult each other magnificently, as the attempts at conversation are occasionally punctuated by the clamorous cries of the unseen child. The cast prove wonderful, whether they are festering, lying, plotting, teasing or exploding. Dan Hiatt's (Noises Off, The Real Thing) Henri is eloquent. He ranges from quavering self pity to foul-mouthed rage. Julie Brothers (Wit, Educating Rita) is dynamic as Ines, ranging from being somewhat tipsy on wine in one scene to a change of character in another. She gives a wonderful tour de force speech on what the two astrophysicists can't see - the fact that man is a significant part of the universe. "Where would the universe be without us?," she exclaims. It's a stirring speech. Warren David Keith (Indiscretions) gives a first rate performance as the pompous Hubert while Delia MacDougall (many roles at ACT, Berkeley Rep) fires the stage with dynamic emotion.
Eric Sinkkonen's set design is breathtaking.
Life x 3 runs through December 12 at the Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley. For tickets call 415-388-5208 or online at www.marintheatre.org. The next production will be the World Premiere of Deborah Zoe Laufer's Fontune opening on January 13.