Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 24, 2017

Wharton Comedies

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through September 10, 2017
by Shera Cohen

“Roman Fever” is billed as a comedy. There is no sidesplitting laughter from the audience. Instead, comes inner smiles and soft chuckling – exactly as humor would have been expressed in the days of Edith Wharton a century ago. However, in the hands of director Normi Noel and adaptor Dennis Krausnick, this short story comes off the pages, into the psyches of its two female characters, and then to its receptive audience. The women have known each other for many years, yet each holds a secret crucial to the welfare of the other.

“The Fullness of Life,” the second play, also deftly written and designed by Krausnick and Noel, respectively, has an important title. It’s main character, newly deceased, enters heaven. She is posed with the question if she has had a full life. Woman (no names are given) professes every reason that she can think of, stating that, yes, her life has been miserable. And yet, perhaps not so terrible after all?

Common to both one-act plays are its three actors: Diane Prusha, Corinna May, and David Joseph; lithe and airy staging; crisp, no-nonsense dialog with not one word wasted; and a twist ending.

David Joseph, a young old-timer (he’s young, but old to Shakespeare & Co.) hones his acting, comedic, and singing skills with each role. He is a joy to watch. Corinna May, a S&Co. regular, has a smooth voice and statuesque demeanor, both perfect for her roles. In the first play, there’s just enough edge for the audience to question if her character is as hurt or as hurtful as she seems.

Photography by Olivia Winslow
Diane Prusha is the “star” of both plays. While her role as Grace in “Roman Fever” is often monosyllabic and without much movement (she sits and knits), it is her character who is literally center stage, quiet and commanding. Prusha speaks softly, her Grace is sweet and rather boring. Yet, her character saves her dialog for the point at which speaking the truth is crucial. Prusha’s ever present Woman gives numerous profound monologues she prepares her soul to enter heaven. We watch Prusha’s acting chops, slowly and assuredly give the meaning of life to her deceased character.