ROBIN’S SHOW REVIEW: Zelda at the Oasis
Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, wife of legendary American “The Great Gatsby” novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald, wants nothing more than to be recognized as an artist in her own right. Two things stand in her way: a growing mental instability (bipolar disorder…she is ultimately institutionalized) and the overbearing shadow of her celebrated husband. Combine that with a stormy, unfaithful marriage, and it’s a cocktail for distress….which we witness in this new play by P. H. Lin.
Theirs is a complex story, and one not easily depicted on stage in an 80 minutes (no intermission) production. Zelda at the Oasis endeavors to provide a snapshot but doesn’t quite get there. On a night in the 1930’s, Zelda discovers The Club Oasis, a New York City bar where she has escaped to drink alone…and she finds herself in the companionship of an aspiring musician who plays piano and tends bar at the Oasis He doesn’t know who she is and doesn’t much care. His objective is to close the bar for the evening, as she coddles her cup of coffee and relates stories. Vivid and haunting memories are triggered as Zelda mentally transforms the Bar Man into those from her past who have shaped her own self-image. These include F. Scott, a cub reporter, a physician, Ernest Hemingway and Zelda’s French lover…..plus two women — a Russian dance instructor and Zelda’s mother. Zelda is separated from Scott and is desperate for a divorce, but due to his Roman Catholic upbringing, he refuses to grant her one.
Gardner Reed (Zelda), in her NY stage debut, is an attractive and commanding presence. Much of her portrayal is razzle dazzle. We get welcome glimpses of emotional depth particularly during the flashbacks, and when she unsuccessfully attempts to execute some ballet moves, reminiscent of her desire to become a dancer. She looks the part of a Southern belle and works hard to flirt with the Bar Man and valiantly keep the biographical storyline moving.
Edwin Cahil (Bar Man and other characters) appeared on Broadway in LoveMusik and in the national tour of Sweeney Todd (John Doyle prod.). Playing the range of characters he is asked to here would be challenging for most actors, and it falls a bit flat.
Andy Sandberg (Director) recently directed the New York premiere of The Last Smoker in America, a new musical by Tony nominee Bill Russell and Drama Desk nominee Peter Melnick. He previously directed the world premiere at CATCO in Columbus, Ohio. He has been represented on Broadway and London’s West End as a producer of the Tony Award winning revival of HAIR and the recent Broadway revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man (2012 Tony and Drama Desk nominations). Other New York directing credits include R.R.R.E.D. and Bernice Bobs Her Mullet (NYMF), Into the Woods and A Funny Thing…Forum (Blue Hill Troupe) and various benefits for BC/EFA and Sing for Hope.
P. H. Lin (Playwright) has written fifteen plays which have been produced in theaters or festivals around the United States, including Running Wild, One of the Few, Miss Matty and the Maja, Sweet Ginger: Hot and Blue, and The Zen of Yo. A portion of Zelda at the Oasis was presented at the Women International Playwrights Conference in Greece. Pat has won the Dayton Playhouse’s National Playwriting Competition (Ohio) and the George Mason University Mary Roberts Rinehart Award (Virginia). Zelda at the Oasis began life as a commission from The F. Scott Fitzgerald Centennial Committee of Rockville, MD to be part of their F. Scott Fitzgerald 100th Birthday Celebration. The play was originally produced by Venus Theatre Company in Laurel, MD.
The set designer for the New York Premiere is Colin McGurk (Rio, Seth Rudetsky’s Disaster!), with costume design by Dustin Cross (Cougar:The Musical, The Other Josh Cohen), lighting by Grant Yeager (Now.Here.This., The Last Smoker in America), and sound design by Daniel Melnick (The Claque, EST) with choreography by Elisabetta Spuria.
For additional info., visit http://zeldaoasis.com.
Zelda at the Oasis is playing at St. Luke’s Theatre, 308 West 46th Street in NYC.