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MetroStage Premiere's Memory Play

Theater Review

"Rosemary and I," the world premiere of Leslie Ayvazian's latest play at MetroStage, is lovely to look at even if it lacks much substance. Co-directors Olympia Dukakis and Nancy Robillard let the cast of four take their time developing the individual characters and building the relationships.

There is no sense of being rushed because the script of this one-act play requires little more than an hour to present. They turn this brevity into a virtue by working on their ensemble pacing to create contrasts between the four.

This also gives the audience time to absorb small details in the search for meaning. There's no real explanation at the beginning, so you have to fit the pieces together as the show progresses. There is not much reward for the effort, however, as it turns out that it is the puzzle and not the answer that is most important.

The one cast member that comes closest to anything approaching harried, or even slightly hurried, is the central character played by playwright Ayvazian herself. She's a grown woman searching her memory for clues to her relationship with her mother who wasn't around much as she grew up because she was off on the concert circuit.

Ayvazian's character tries to make sense of her memories as she handles objects that were her mothers: a comb, a diary, a bell. Each triggers a memory and those memories slowly add up to a picture of the mother and her own relationship with her daughter, her husband and her friend and companionóthe woman who was her accompanist on the concert circuit.

MUCH APPEARS TO HANG on the relationship between these two women and a kiss they shared although the play never really resolves just what the impact of their relationship was on Ayvazian's character's development. Was it the cause of her adult persona or is it simply a single factor that she's just recognizing?

The two women are given gentle portrayals by regional theater veteran Judith Roberts as the mother, "Rosemary," and Washington theater regular Jewell Robinson as the accompanist. Together, they present a picture of refined gentility on the surface undergirded by something more complex and compelling.

Providing a bit of comic spice to the show is Sam Groom as the father, a lone male stuck in an essentially female world attempting to assert some sort of sense of strength without coming off as a male chauvinist. He asserts that he is "a central figure" in the family's world but the fact that he feels a need to say it gives the lie to the assertion.

Echoes of the mother's concert background come from the pair of John Hodian and Bet Williams at a grand piano on the side of the stage. Hodian composed the music which nicely supports the tone of the show, and Williams' voice is velvety smooth, giving a feeling of the detachment of memory to her vocalizing.

The entire package gives Ayvazian's play a most supportive and handsome introduction, but the play still seems too slight to earn many productions on its own. It may well, however, have some future as part of an evening of one-act plays - perhaps including others by the same author.