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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Embracing Fantasy

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  In 1952, scriptwriter George Axelrod scored a major success with The Seven Year Itch, a Broadway comedy about a married man whose fantasy life gets a little out of control when he meets a beautiful young woman. Decades later, Jeremy Desmon updated the story in a compelling exploration of extramarital fantasy with The Girl in the Frame. In Desmon’s well-received musical comedy, both husband and wife engage in extramarital affairs with fantasy figures. Next week, In Tandem Theatre opens the Midwest premiere of The Girl in the Frame at the Tenth Street Theatre. The musical, directed by In Tandem co-founder Jane Flieller, closes the company’s first season in the new space.

  Simon Provan and Alison Mary Forbes play Alex and Laney, a young married couple celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary while living in a small apartment. Provan last appeared with In Tandem in various roles of Ha!—the very first production at the Tenth Street Theatre. Forbes is best known for her role as the drunken librarian in In Tandem’s A Cudahy Caroler Christmas.

  The young couple has very little time to celebrate their anniversary as Laney is suddenly called away to Madrid, Spain, leaving Alex to fantasize about a model in the stock photo of a picture frame he was given as an anniversary present. To his surprise, the girl appears in flesh and blood (as played by Courtney Jones in her In Tandem debut). Suffice it to say, things get complicated from there. When Laney returns to the apartment, a model from a fireman calendar (Travis Knight) comes to life to serve as Laney’s fantasy counterpart to the title character.

  The apartment becomes quite crowded with four people in it, and the small space at the Tenth Street Theatre is perfect to accentuate the comedy of fantasy and intimacy. Alex and Laney’s apartment is tiny but upscale, which could pose problems for a musical requiring a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom and a front door. Set designer and In Tandem co-founder Chris Flieller did some research, however, and came up with some interesting solutions. Flieller, a talented actor in his own right, has shown considerable talent for designing the company’s set on a budget.

  The biggest challenge with respect to Desmon’s musical might be the tone. The absurdity of romantic fantasies coming to life has to balance with the story’s human nature, without compromising the pacing of an American musical format. Jane Flieller’s perspective on the show is reassuringly sophisticated. “Alex and Laney…embrace a world of fantasy because it’s easier than facing their own relationship dilemma,” she says. “The issue that arises in Girl in the Frame is universal: Is it truly better to live in a fantasy world than to embrace reality, warts and all?”

  The Girl in The Frame closes June 15.