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Talking It Over: Reviews
February 1 - March 23, 2008


February 13, 2008
By Fabrizio O. Almeida

As a platform for five great performers, as proof that books can be successfully transformed into vibrant plays and as a dramatic dissertation on disintegrating relationships, one likely to send shock waves of recognition through anyone who's ever experienced one, there's not much currently on the boards to beat Lifeline Theatre's "Talking It Over," writer Peter Greenberg and director Dorothy Milne's world-premiere adaptation of English novelist Julian Barnes' book. And like the 1991 novel upon which it is based, this stage version charts the three's-a-crowd arrangement and Truffaut-like "Jules et Jim" dynamic among two men and one woman, and the damage that ensues after one of the men--Oliver--decides to pursue his best mate Stuart's wife Gillian. Ultimately, this is your typical adult relationship drama replete with deception, resentment, accusation and some reconciliation, but albeit one laced with a thick British accent--which to my untrained ear sounded authentic and spot-on in this production. Adaptor/writer Greenberg deserves most of the praise: I'm usually suspect of literary adaptations--unless one has eight hours of stage time a la "Nicholas Nickleby" it's hard as hell to distill the essence of a long novel into a satisfying theater piece--but I was deeply impressed with Greenberg's decision to fold in much of Barnes' original rhetoric into direct address monologues for the first act, setting up the foundation to these characters' personalities and narrative arcs, and then abandoning much of this in the second half for a more traditional dramaturgical structure incorporating dramatized exchanges. Certainly the piece still has its dense passages and feels a bit overlong, but a balance between the discussed and the dramatized has been found and rewards are to be had for the audience member with an attention span. After all, it's the details that make the characters exceptionally interesting, and it's the details that leave one somewhat exasperated by them: the pompous and prolix Oliver could be the British cousin to any of American filmmaker Whit Stillman's insufferable yet compulsively entertaining characters; Stuart's obsequiousness gives ways to a perverse stoicism and a manipulative streak subtly runs through Gillian's babe in the woods routine. In other words, the complete emotional experience is alive and kicking on the stage, thanks to the great charisma of all the performers, but mostly due to a fine adaptation that entertains while remaining truthful to the work's literary roots. Since this is Lifeline's raison d'etre, "Talking It Over" is nothing less than an unqualified artistic success.

From the Chicago Sun-Times

Play about cheating is fairly brilliant
Barnes' stylish script is well executed by Lifeline's cast, crew
February 13, 2008
By Hedy Weiss

Highly Recommended

What would writers do without adultery? From the Bible to Shakespeare,from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Harold Pinter's "Betrayal" to grand opera and country songs, this is one subject that invariably gets the ink flowing.

Of course, not all writers who deal with adultery are created equal. Beyond the whole matter of style, there must be the implicit understanding that such tales invariably end badly for all involved. And the writer must carefully mete out just the right degree of illicit desire, dangerous behavior, brief satisfaction, crushing guilt, punishment and remorse.

Julian Barnes, the contemporary British writer (and Francophile), is a master stylist who knows precisely how to construct (and deconstruct) the classic triangle. And in "Talking It Over," his razor-sharp adaptation for Lifeline Theatre, Peter Greenberg proves he is in perfect sync with Barnes' 1991 novel of the same name. So is director Dorothy Milne, her ideal cast and gifted set designer Andre LaSalle.

Like many of his peers, Barnes deals with love, jealousy and covetousness among the English chattering classes -- smart, acerbic, selfish and sad in their contemporary way. And each of the characters has his or her Rashomon-like say about what really happened and how profoundly it changed them.

It starts with two good but very different friends -- Stuart (John Ferrick), a kind, romantic, rather literal young banker, and Oliver (Chris Hainsworth), all flash, panache and arty fecklessness. Stuart gets the girl -- Gillian (Elise Kauzlaric), a serious-minded art restorer. But they are a happy threesome until marriage leaves Oliver the odd man out, and willing to do anything to get Gillian. That is only the beginning. The consequences of it all are truly dark.

The three principal actors are impeccable in every way, but so is the supporting cast -- the delicious Ann Wakefield as Gillian's worldly wise French mother and Katie McLean, briefly stealing the show, as a brashly comic former girlfriend. Bloody good all around.

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