Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Ms. Lennon, as Linda Lee-Porter, possesses seemingly inexhaustible musical and theatrical resources: light and sizzling in a slew of medleys and, in the heart-felt full-length songs, alternatingly whimsical and torchy. Her "belty" mid-range vocal power doesn't burst forth till the second half, when the relationship gets rocky. But as always, Ms. Lennon comes fully equipped, not just vocally, but with a psychological backstage full of the shadows of doubt and fear. In this production she's on stage alone for almost the entire hour and fifteen minutes, in what amounts to the ultimate cabaret act, backed up by a first-rate trio.
The one-sidedness of the Porters' marriage becomes apparent early on, at least in this re-telling, through the text by Stevie Holland and Gary William Friedman (who also wrote the musical arrangements). She, a wealthy divorcée, eight (or ten?) years his senior, married Cole Porter in 1919 and tried to steer him into studying longhair music. It didn't take, but thanks to her he did get a taste for the complexities of the form, and put that early training to good use in songs like "Night and Day" and "Anything Goes."
Behind the music, though, Cole Porter could never escape the thrill of illicit romance: in Love, Linda the composer's passionate gay relationships swirl around his sophisticated wife, who manages to be a good sport about it, at least until the couple moves out to Hollywood. (We catch glimpses of some of his real-life lovers in the fine multimedia projections.) But her own previous marriage had been to an abusive husband, so we assume her expectations were fairly low going into this one.
With all that in mind, it seems Mrs. Porter became (at least psychologically) well qualified to sing songs of madcap or melancholy love. And Ms. Lennon, in the title role, is never overwhelmed. Her past characters, like Little Edie in Grey Gardens, or the bi-polar Diana in Next to Normal, were pathologically lost. But her Linda Porter lingers willingly in the twilight of a tenuous relationship, breathless in its resonance. In that sense, at least, it was a perfect marriage.
Love, Linda, through January 27, 2019, at the Marcelle Theatre, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, St. Louis MO. For more information visit www.maxandlouie.com.
* Denotes Member, Actors' Equity Association