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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Powerful Contemporary Romantic Drama

Soulstice brings 'Still Life' to an intimate stage

Soustice Theater
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Soulstice Theatre presents the Wisconsin premiere of Alexander Dinelaris’ sophisticated contemporary drama Still Life. An emotionally irresistible Amber Smith plays Carrie Ann, an accomplished photographer going through a rough time in her life. Mateo Genovesi plays Jeffrey, a trend analyst for an advertising company who meets her at a gallery where her work is being shown. Smith and Genovesi deliver a remarkably compelling romantic drama to Soulstice’s intimate stage. Genovesi is at his best when the character is at his lowest emotionally. Dinelaris’ script allows for plenty of low moments here, but thanks to a powerfully engaging performance from Smith and a well-balanced ensemble, the sadness of the story never becomes overwhelming.

At well over two hours, the drama is very long. To its credit, the production moves along with the kind of gravity that keeps it from ever feeling sluggish. That said, there’s quite a lot here that could have been cut without detracting anything significant from the plot, including a number of scenes with Jeffrey’s boss Terry (an appealing distasteful Joe Krapf). Thematically, there is some merit in comparing a compassionate Jeffrey against the altogether more caustic and primitive personality of his boss, but Dinelaris leans on it to an extent that almost threatens to derail the story’s thematic rhythm.

Quite a few other characters are equally interesting. Brian Meyers is charming as Jeffrey’s doctor friend Sean. Amy Hansmann brings an impressively rigid strength to the role of Carrie Ann’s friend and colleague Joanne.

Soulstice Theatre’s production of Still Life runs through June 21, at the Keith Tamsett Theater, 3770 S. Pennsylvania Ave., St. Francis. For tickets, visit soulsticetheatre.org or call 414-481-2800.