Friday June 28, 2013

DORSET -- Currently showing at the Dorset Theatre Festival through July 7, the protagonist of playwright Theresa Rebeck’s "The Scene" is an actor with an ailing career who, in his own words, would like to pretend to have a shred of integrity left.

Charlie, played by Tim Daly of television’s "Private Practice" and "Wings," is feeling downtrodden to begin the play set in New York. Having schlepped himself to a party in hopes of landing work, he encounters the effervescent Clea (played by Carolyn Holding) who plays up the fact she has just arrived to the (figurative) scene from Ohio. (Called "patently stupid" by one character, Charlie responds that she’s "interesting, in a vapid way.")

And so begins the two characters’ trajectories -- one up, one down -- over the course of the production directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt.

Stripped but effectual scenery is the result of John McDermott, and sound by M.L. Dogg does particularly well to fill in the blanks off stage.

But the focus throughout remains squarely on Charlie, with Daly communicatively emoting to events and characters, most effectively with expressions over words. Geoffrey Arend stands by for most of the production as Charlie’s perpetually bemused hipster friend Lewis (the audience may find itself wondering why the two are friends for the bulk of the performance) while Mary Bacon plays Charlie’s "too competent" wife Stella.

Originally shown off-Broadway at New York’s Second Stage Theatre in 2007, the New York Times review called Rebeck’s work a "dark-hued morality tale."

In a "talkback" question-and-answer session with Rebeck and Dorset’s Artistic Director Dina Janis following last Saturday’s matinee, the playwright said the DTF production was back to the original 2007 ending, after she was "bullied" into a rewrite by the Times reviewer.

Rebeck said the play began with her envisioning the opening scene, where Clea’s character "exploded in her language."

With Clea owning the first scene, the play follows along to have Stella and Charlie dominant later parts.

"The Scene" takes about two hours over two acts separated by a 15-minute intermission, and includes some sexual content and semi-frequent profanity.

Evening performances take place Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., while matinee shows are scheduled on Wednesdays, Sundays, and some Saturdays at 3 p.m.

For more information check www.dorsettheatrefestival.org, or call the box office at (802) 867-2223.

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