November 12th — December 19th, 1999
Written by: Tadeusz Rozewizc
Translated by: Adam Czerniawski
Directed by: Frédérique Michel
Production Design by: Charles A. Duncombe, Jr.
Cast: Annette Culp, Jennifer Dion, Richard Grove, Justine Klineman, Katerina Lejona, Jonathan Liebhold, Cynthia Mance, Laura McCann, Eileen O’Connell, Bo Roberts, Cheryl Scaccio, Erin Vincent, Gene Williams
Los Angeles Times
review by Philip Brandes
“A surreal erotic fable chock full of Freudian themes and imagery, “Marriage Blanc” (White Wedding) is a good fit for the libido-drenched avant antics of Santa Monica’s City Garage. Nudity, emotional confrontation, socio-political satire and absurdism abound in this tale of a girl’s frightened resistance to an arranged marriage and her own emerging womanhood. But Tadeusz Rozewizc’s wry allegory also lets the ensemble demonstrate its facility with more traditional performance and stagecraft, thanks to linear narrative, continuity of character, and turn-of-the-century setting.
In a striking departure from the company’s frequent forays into stark, existential modernism, production designer Charles A. Duncombe Jr’s ornate period scenery and warm-hued lighting prove well-suited to the 1968 play’s deliberate construction as a distant fairy tale — necessary to avoid censorship in the playwright’s native Poland.
Cynthia Mance gives a sympathetic, multilayered central performance as Bianca, a tom-boy whose terror of sexuality manifests itself in fanciful visions almost as strange as her peculiar family. Particularly effective are her philandering father (Richard Grove), who furtively chases the domestic help; her uptight mother (Katherina Lejona), who derives her only sexual gratification reciting mail-order catalogs for china and undergarments; and her lecherous grandfather (Gene Williams), who has no qualms about preying on his own descendants.
Initial naturalistic presentation gives way to increasingly menacing hallucinations that torment Bianca with the approach of her marriage to a pompous, inexperienced poet (Jonathan Liebhold), who appears to be sporting a phallic mushroom with angry red cap; the other males follow suit and ultimately mutate via animal masks into grunting beasts at the wedding feast.
Metaphorically extending paternalistic sexual dominance into the political sphere with a thinly veiled assault on government, Rozewizc’s point doesn’t require quite this extended a treatment. Despite director Frédérique Michel’s often inventive flourishes, the final third bogs down in restatement but redeems itself with a haunting finale.”
Beverly Hills Outlook Online Magazine
review by Charles Lonberger
“On November 14th, in the rarified ambience of Santa Monica’s City Garage, amidst the smell of sawdust and the taste of wine, the City Garage Theater troop presented a good-humored version of Tadeusz Rosewicz’s whimsical “White Wedding” (Marriage Blanc), a play of quirky, imaginative and coherent greatness.
The production itself, which was dedicated to Jan Kott, was notable for the open and wide breath of Charles Duncombe’s sets and costuming of Michele Gingembre and Eric Vincent that convincing]y recalled the epoch in which the action was placed, and for the brilliant, eccentric and eclectic direction of company director Frédérique Michel, whose work has, in the past, not always been untouched by the polemic, but who was here consistently on the mark, calling on the songs of birds and crickets, chants and the sounds of a summer rain amid a riot of phallic mushrooms and virile masked beasts, in bemusedly bringing this tale of the Ribald Power of Life to life.
The cast, which included many company debuts among them, was uniformly outstanding, and set a new level of ensemble achievement at this venue. In particular, Cynthia Mance’s Bianca was a creation of brilliant, believable hysterics, a powerful glue that held the entire production together, and was well-played off against the healthy, robust earthiness of Erin Vincent’s Pauline, who gave us a glorious St. Verbona sequence. As their father, Richard Grove was invigoratingly lecherous, while Katharina Lejona brought a pinched frigidity to the role of their other. The part of the Aunt was fleshed out to its fullest capacity by Cheryl Scaccio. Gene Williams’ grandfather was a work of great acting depth, resonant and of deep substance. Also exceptional was Jennifer Dion as the cook, who imbued her potential throwaway part with the Force of Life itself. Laura McCann’s Ghost of the Grandmother was read with a melodious cadence, while Jonathan Liebhold lend a dazed David Manners touch to his work as Benjamin. The whole of this production perfectly meshed in delivering a particularly riveting confessional scene, an inspired marriage of text, cast, and direction that well served the exceptional translation of Adam Czerniawski.
A visual motif running throughout the drama like an invisible commentary were Annette Culp, Eileen O’Connell, and Justine Kleinman as Maids who at times cavorted in and out of the shadows like figures from Matisse, while, at other times, silently stalking the stage.
Readers of this publication are strongly advised to keep a close eye on this venue near the beach. Their productions, while not uniformly successful, are always thought provoking and well mounted, giving local audiences an early view of European trends in contemporary theater.”