Paris 1890–Unlaced! by Juliane Hiam. Directed by Sarah Taylor
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"...wow, wow, wow, wow..."
Back at the Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox, Massachusetts for a brief, one-week run is actress Anne Undeland in the one-woman show "Paris 1890-Unlaced." A unique experience with the actress in five separate roles (although creating a sixth in absentia) this play was a hit all summer long and its revival for the holiday week is a gift to the neighborhood.
Undeland begins and ends the show as the director of a historic house museum that has been gifted with two artifacts from the 1890s. It is her exploration of the characters connected with those items, a dress and a poster - probably created by Toulouse-Lautrec - that makes up the body of the play.
Author Juliane Hiam has created two courtesans: a Parisian known as "La Crème" and a half-cockney dancer who calls herself "La Vierge". The two women, one growing older, and the other half her age, share a lover who also happens to be married to a woman who genuinely understands her mate and wishes him to be happy. Hettie, the wife, is straightforward and honest. Le Crème" is sly and wise. La Vierge - which means the virigin - is conniving and spirited. Undeland interprets them all beautifully and adds one more Parisian denizen to the list with the hatmaker who knows them all. She, in turn, shares the stage with the unseen American Woman whose correspondence with a resident of Lenox, Massachusetts brings the story of these three women and their New Year’s Eve escapade back to the place where the play begins and ends.
With accents, postures and gestures belonging to each of these characters, the actress brings to vivid life each and every one of them. Under the careful and clear-eyed direction of Sarah Taylor there are no mishaps, no errors in interpretation and Undeland manages the challenge brilliantly.
Produced in cooperation with Shakespeare and Company (located across the street from the rear gate to Ventfort Hall) the production boasts an excellent set by Carl Sprague, perfect costumes by Govane Lohbauer and the assistance of Underwear Consultant Lynda Meyer.
There is no reason to spend time reading this brief review of the one hour and eleven minute show which disappears again, possibly forever, after New Year’s Eve. Pick up the phone and make your reservation for seating is very limited in the grand foyer of Ventfort Hall. There is no time to lose if you want to get into the world of 1890 Paris and its delicious laced-up undergarments.
Paris, 1890–Unlaced plays through this week at Ventfort Hall in Lenox MA. For tickets call 413-637-3206.