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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Classic Stage Company


  Melissa Errico and Ryan Silverman

Stephen Sondheim's musical Passion is really a chamber opera, and it's found the ideal home at the intimate thrust stage of the Classic Stage Company. First performed on Broadway in 1994 starring a young Donna Murphy, it's hardly the most likable or commercial Sondheim show. But this tale of romantic obsession boasts intensity, beautiful music and, yes, plenty of passion. In the hands of director John Doyle and a fine cast led by Judy Kuhn, Melissa Errico and Ryan SilvermanPassion is utterly absorbing and at times hauntingly powerful.
Based on the Ettore Scola film Passione D'Amore, with a book by James LapinePassion involves a love triangle. Giorgio (Silverman) is a handsome officer stationed at a country house. He has recently started an affair with a beautiful married woman, Clara (Errico). They write adoring letters that keep the affair alive from a distance. Fosca (Kuhn) is an unattractive, sickly woman who lives at the house occupied by the soldiers, and she develops an unhealthy infatuation with Giorgio.
Giorgio sings of Fosca's "wretchedness" and self-pity. The other soldiers mock her embarrassing and obvious yearning for an unattainable man. Much of the musical is somber due to Fosca's ill health and unhappiness. But Sondheim's music and lyrics are as lovely as they are heartbreaking. "I wish I could forget you," Kuhn sings with desperate longing. In one of the most memorable and melodic passages she adds simply, "Loving you is not a choice."
Anyone who has experienced unrequited love can certainly relate to Fosca's infatuation with Giorgio. Kuhn, a Broadway veteran perhaps best known for She Loves Me, gives a raw, totally committed performance that may well be the best of her career. Silverman, who has starred in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and in Las Vegas, really makes a name for himself with this production. Besides looking the part of a dashing young officer, he proves that he can act as well as he sings. As the third member of the triangle, the vain and self-assured Clara, Errico is also outstanding. Stephen Bogardus is excellent as Colonel Ricci, and he and the other officers harmonize beautifully.
Doyle doesn't have his actors playing any instruments this time, but he has directed and designed an impeccable production. Sondheim specialist Jonathan Tunick contributes gorgeous orchestrations, and Rob Berman conducts the orchestra, which is seated above the stage. Hats off to CSC for a memorable staging of a difficult but essential work by our greatest living theater composer.


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