GOING TO ST. IVES
By LEE BLESSING
59E59 Theatres, 59 E. 59 St., NYC
March 15 – April 24, 2005
Directed by MARIA MILEAF
Set Design NEIL PATEL
Costume Design ANN HOULD-WARD
Lighting Design DAVID LANDER
Press OPR/ORIGLIO PUBLIC RELATIONS
May N’Kame – L. Scott Caldwell
Dr. Cora Gage – Vivienne Benesch
GOING TO ST. IVES is a finely acted production. It is a study in moral and ethical conflicts, and is perhaps best described as a two-character drawing room drama crafted explicitly to examine relevant social issues. However you take it in, it all amounts to an unlikely, even contrived tale brought into the realm of credibility thanks to one proficient director and two emotive actors.
Commentary on the plot need not suggest that there is anything unskilled about Lee Blessing’s writing. Quite the opposite is true, especially with dialogue that goes beyond creative banter into mannered political debate rather seamlessly. It is more the overall framework of the play that seems hard to accept for a concept otherwise drawn quite firmly from within the realms of current possibilities. For, GOING TO ST. IVES introduces us to the mother of a murderous leader of an African Empire, and the British doctor that she turns to for both laser surgery and in hopes of securing a poison to kill her son.
In keeping with the clashing cultures vein, the setting, sets and costumes are meant to highlight the differences between these two women, even as we recognize the universal commonalities underneath the clothes, nationalities, and moral stances. In the first act, set in a sitting room in St. Ives, England, we witness a sort of cat and mouse game, with May N’Kame verbally and psychologically manipulating the vulnerable Dr. Gage. The second act, six months later, takes place in a garden in Africa, and is not as successful as its predecessor. Nonetheless, the gripping performances keep GOING TO ST. IVES engaging.
This is one that I am going to recommend. There is so much that is right with GOING TO ST. IVES, that the things that are not are almost overshadowed by the abundance of talent involved.
- Kessa De Santis -