Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Tasty Dish For The Gods

A Dish for The Gods, premiering at the Lion Theater on Theater Row, is the latest piece by veteran playwright Victor L. Cahn.  Gods is presented as a lecture by an accomplished female author and editor, Julia Richards.  In this lecture, Julie’s stock presentation goes awry; blown off course by a catalogue of mistakes that leaves Julia pondering how she has arrived at this place in her professional life.

Julia, played to perfection by Margot White, explains how she went from unfocussed 20-something to a driven female writer and researcher.  A male professor, Greg Davidson (played by Kevin Cristaldi), awoke a passion English Literature - passion being the key component.
Kevin Cristaldi and Margot White in A Dish For The Gods (credit - Jon Kandel)
Julia's tale unfolds as a love letter to teaching and then the teacher himself.  Professor Davidson, lecturer in English Literature, challenged the intelligent but unfocussed Julia into returning to college finish her degree.  He awakens such a passion that she completes her BA and then go for a Masters.  All the while, Greg and Julia’s relationship deepens from flirtation into an emotional and sexual relationship.

The framing device, and the pivot point for Julia, is the underlying theme of Taming of the Shrew – to wit, true love requires a person to give up part of himself or herself to grow into a fulfilling union.  How much the audience member buys into this theme probably affect how much they can get lost in A Dish for The Gods.

Margot White does a wonderful job as Julia, bringing strength and stillness to a role that could easily turn into melodrama.  Kevin Cristaldi delivers a fine turn as Professor Davidson.  The role requires him to show up and display emotions without fully taking us on the journey – acceptable for the shadow of a man conjured up by memories.

Director Adam Fitzgerald does a nice job moving the action along and working within the confines of the play, without ever making it seem too much of a limitation.  However, A Dish for The Gods ultimately didn’t complete the sale.  After delivering a powerful, strong female character, Julia melts a bit at the end.  She over-dramatically laments her decisions, ones which were made thoughtfully and deliberately. 

There is a fine line separating regret of decisions made versus regretting how you implemented those decisions.   The second shows a maturity and honest remorse without revisiting mistakes.  The first, lamenting decisions at all, displays an inability to grow up and take responsibility for your life.  It is Mr. Cahn’s poor luck that he drew such a complex character early, that Julia's self-pity reads false at the end of the piece.  I have no doubt that some women (and some men) may second-guess themselves to this extent, but Julia would not.

A Dish for The Gods is an strong love letter to complex women, but it deserved a more fitting coda.

A Dish For The Gods
Playwright: Victor L. Cahn
Director: Adam Fitzgerald
Cast: Kevin Cristaldi, Margot White

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