La Scene | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

La Scene 

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LA SCENE, Playwrights' Center, at Loyola University Chicago, Kathleen Mullady Memorial Theatre. "[We're] a pair of rich celebrity bitches having a catfight!" declares one of the two characters in Victor Haim's La Scene. It's an accurate assessment. For 105 intermissionless minutes, lesbian playwright Gertrude and sexpot actress Hortence stroke each other--physically and psychologically--while sparring for creative control of the highly desirable role the former has just offered the latter. The games begin under the usual feline gush-and-backbite rules of engagement but soon progress to less ladylike behavior.

Since duplicity and mistrust among females is no longer shocking, there would be little in this world-premiere symposium on art and existentialism in modern society to hold our attention were it not for the casting of Kristine Karvelas and Karyn Morris. Under the meticulous direction of Heidi Peterson, they deliver their catty comebacks with vaudevillian precision, reserving their energies during the script's many clownish emotional outbursts to keep the pace brisk but steady (though there is a brief plateau in the play's final quarter). Remarkably, the intensity builds right up to Haim's shamelessly contrived ending.

A French production that was to have preceded this one was postponed--and perhaps delayed the playwright's final editing of the text. Even in the uncut version, however, Karvelas and Morris's stamina and agile teamwork make for an engaging evening.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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