Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Serenading Louie

Also see Susan's review of The Savannah Disputation

Theodore M. Snead and Hans Dettmar
The characters in Lanford Wilson's 1970 drama Serenading Louie probably never heard the term "anxious masculinity," but male insecurity is the propulsive force of this play, pulled from obscurity and returned to the stage by American Century Theater in Arlington, Virginia. While the play offers the sort of incisive writing that actors long to perform, though, the efforts of director Steven Scott Mazzola and four actors aren't enough to bring to life this examination of two couples on the verge of middle age.

The time is the early 1970s. Carl (Hans Dettmar) and Alex (Theodore M. Snead) became friends when they were roommates at Northwestern University, and now they live in the same Chicago suburb. A couple of decades down the line, Carl has become a prosperous real estate developer and Alex is a lawyer with political ambitions. They would seem to have everything they want, but things are not going smoothly in their personal lives.

Carl and his wife Mary (Vanessa Bradchulis) seem to have a comfortable rapport, but problems lie hidden beneath the tranquil surface and they can't ignore these issues forever. The trouble between Alex and his wife Gabrielle (Robin Covington) is more visible: the connection between them, both verbal and sexual, is broken and they only succeed in driving each other away.

The play is an interesting historical document because of the spotlight it shines—perhaps unintentionally, as Wilson was a man of his time—on the limited options of women in that era. The women's movement was still young and widely ridiculed as "Women's Lib, so it's not surprising that a wife in her thirties facing marital frustration would see sex—either trying to compel her husband's affections or having an affair—as the only way she can break out, rather than entering the workforce or otherwise engaging the outside world. Wilson portrays this through Mary's shallow, routine conversations with Carl and the way Gabby can barely speak without tripping over her words.

Covington gives the most compelling performance of the four: her character gets an opportunity to grow and change, and she manages to convey, through posture and tone of voice, the frustration and anger she dares not speak.

American Century Theater
Serenading Louie
July 23rd —August 21st
By Lanford Wilson
Mary: Vanessa Bradchulis
Carl: Hans Dettmar
Alex: Theodore M. Snead
Gabrielle: Robin Covington
Directed by Steven Scott Mazzola
Gunston Theatre II, 2700 S. Lang St.
Arlington, VA 22206
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Photo: Dennis DeLoria

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