by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move.

“All human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope”.’

They were ambitious taking on the adventure novel, The Count of Monte Cristo,  by French author Alexandre Dumas (who also wrote The Three Musketeers), which captures historic events of the 1815-1839 Bourbon Restoration era as it tells the story of Edmond Dantes, a young merchant set up by a jealous rival to take the fall for treason, who after being sentenced to brutal imprisonment, thought dead by his family and fiance, miraculously escapes many years later, gets his hands on a hidden incomprehensible fortune,  and returns to take revenge on – well – everybody.

Rather than merely give us another shortened movie version of this literary classic, writer Kelly D’Angelo, who has read over six versions of the story including one in French, has no less than attempted to put as much time into creating the musical and include as intact a narrative as could be possible for stage — as did Dumas put into the actual literary writing.  Only thing is, all that pre-study didn’t quite translate.

Asking an audience to follow such an epic with a completely complex storyline that involves romance, loyalty, betrayal, and selfishness and themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy and forgiveness takes an extraordinary commitment in time, space, breath and so much more than just a lot of wonderful actors who sing and beautiful costumes for the ladies.

The shining star of this production is the musical score and arrangements, which have been perfectly composed by Matt Dahan.  You will want to experience the production for this aspect.  The rest is awkwardly directed and compacted into a very un-figuratively small black box, being currently mounted at the Lounge Theatre.  Not having enough practical room to simply walk around, the cast is relegated to a lot of posing which does nothing to showcase the physical choreography.  There are some terrific singers/actors in this production and gorgeous, honest even playfully funny moments by the actors but some of the characters are slightly miscast and more than a few of the scene interludes/changes could be shaved entirely.

It’s not a total disaster and frankly it’s a pretty amazing first try for boiling down an epic drama to something an audience can actually sit through and follow.  But it needs a lot of work directionally and compositionally as a play.  Go for the forgiveness, and also the love story which, in case you’ve only seen the movies, is not about Dantes and Mercedes.

Mixed.

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