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Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008

Intellectual Discourse

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Perhaps the most fundamental task for any stage actor is drawing an audience into a story through the recitation of dialogue. The actor is usually aided in this task by the set, costuming, props, lighting, sound design and the like. Quite often, however, smaller studio theaters lack such decoration, and actors are challenged to deliver the full reality of the play to audiences. The BoulevardTheatre's production of the Victor L. Cahn comedy Roses In December, opening this week, offers just such a challenge to two different actors from two different generations.

In the intimate confines of the Boulevard's storefront space on South Kinnickinnic Avenue, Anne Miller stars as a graduate student attempting to persuade an accomplished author (played by David Ferrie) to correspond with her. It is established early on that the author in question is a traditionalist who works without the aid of a home computer. Without today's usual e-mails and text messages, the correspondence is confined to letters sent through the mail.

Despite being relatively new, Roses In December is a traditional epistolary play, meaning that the dialogue is woven out of the substance of classic letters. For many, this format conjures up a boring, staged reading that lacks any real vitality. Such is not the case with the Boulevard's production, however. The play is performed entirely without props, eliminating even the slightest hint of a staged reading. The hope is that this will give the production an immediacy that goes beyond a tedious back-and-forth volley of letters. And with a script that is firmly grounded in contemporary culture, the contrast of old-fashioned letter writing in the modern age takes on an interesting tone.

The 90-minute story being brought to the Boulevard is a strange hybrid of writing, reading and speaking. The production's complex nature gives Ferrie and Miller their greatest challenge, as they must fuse multiple forms of communication into a unified stage presentation.

"We're so used to speaking in dialogue," Ferrie says. "This is not dialogue. This is monologue."

Fortunately, it's a challenge that Miller and Ferrie seem quite capable of tackling. In talking to them, one gets the impression that they truly believe in the work and will give audiences a captivating glance into the interpersonal drama of intellectual discourse.

The Boulevard's production of Roses In December runs Dec. 26 through Jan. 18, 2009.