Off Broadway Theater Review: A MAD PERSON’S CHRONICLE OF A MISERABLE MARRIAGE (Stage Left Studio)

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by Michele Miloradovich on November 17, 2011

in Theater-New York

WAR, BUT NO PEACE

John Andert so captivates the audience in Sinan Ünel’s play A Mad Person’s Chronicle of a Miserable Marriage that you don’t want the play to end.  Whether he is the deliciously mad chronicler or Sonya Tolstoy, tortured wife of Leo, or the great Tolstoy himself, he suffuses each character with the passion and frailty that plagues anyone who has ever loved. As each character shares their tale of how the marriage went terribly wrong, one finds oneself switching allegiances clear through to the play’s final moments.  It’s to Andert’s credit that he seems to favor neither.  Whether it’s donning Sonya’s dress or Leo’s shirt, he inhabits both costume and character equally well, allowing the audience to feel who these great people of history were and how they each experienced the loss of what could have been.

Ünel’s Chronicle is the love story behind a marriage without boundaries.  According to the play, and in one of the first documented accounts of TMI, Leo gets the ball rolling by giving his beloved his diary to read shortly before the wedding, begging the question: What was he thinking?  Couldn’t he have at least torn out the pages regarding the tryst with the friend of his soon to be mother-in-law?

It also doesn’t make for a happy home to eschew a privileged life for a kinder, simpler one without first warning one’s spouse that you might be having a tinge of regret about your shared privileged life.  With all the children Sonya bore and all the locals invited to dine in their home, one might easily speculate that he filled his home with a bevy of minions to provide a buffer for their fractured relationship.

A Mad Person’s Chronicle of a Miserable Marriage - Stage Left Studio - with John Andert – written and directed by Sinan Ünel – Off Broadway Theater Review by Michele MiloradovitchA Mad Person’s Chronicle of a Miserable Marriage tells of all this and more, but it is a testament to Ünel’s brilliance in how he lets the story unfold.  He allows the audience to experience the shock and devastation of what must have been the utter despair of two people who cared deeply for one another and struggled to make it right, until the devastating realization that it could never be so.  Ünel’s is a balanced perspective.  However, one can’t help but feel that Sonya is the more blindsided of the two.  She edited his work; she copied War and Peace (more than once); she so believed in their shared partnership that she never conceived of a time when she would be shut out of his life.  Although history may tell a different story, Ünel allows us to experience Sonya’s pain, not as that of a shrewish wife, but as a person genuinely baffled by the change in her husband.  Ünel injects the play with humor, most notably when he parallels each lover’s reaction to a cup of tea.  It’s those simple touches that illuminate the vast ocean that will separate the lovers through to their heartbreaking end.

The set, simply done, evokes a time gone by, when people had the luxury of taking tea and pondering the great questions.  Phoebe Otis’ costumes suggest the period beautifully, and also remind us that they are the conceit of the chronicler.  The lighting designer, Ellen Rosenberg, creates a captivating intimacy in a beautiful space.  If this is the quality of theater to expect from Stage Left Studio, this reviewer will be looking forward to many more productions to come.

A Mad Person’s Chronicle of a Miserable Marriage
Stage Left Studio
scheduled to end on November 22, 2011
for tickets, visit http://www.stageleftstudio.net/tour-ticket.php?id=4

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