Coral Gables' New Theatre is staging the world premiere of Shirley Lauro's The Radiant and to this end they imported three New York actors: Angelica Torn, Hana Kalinski and Richard-John Seikaly. Seikaly, just starting in the business and still non-Equity, clearly has a future in theatre; Kalinski could have been replaced for the better by any recent NWSA graduate and Torn apparently tries to show us how it's done in the Big City. Big mistake.
A veteran stage, TV and film actor, Angelica Torn is the daughter of Rip Torn and the late Geraldine Page. She has the bloodline and the Big Name but unfortunately goes out of her way to prove that more is less. From the moment she steps on stage as Marie Curie, twice a winner of the Nobel Prize, she gives new meaning to the term “fleeting expressions.” By intermission I was convinced Lon Chaney, the “Man of a Thousand Faces” had returned from the dead...in drag.
Perhaps I'm being unkind here, but when you can't take your eyes off the “Star” because you don't want to miss the next bit of business, the play suffers.
And The Radiant needs all the help it can get. We meet 39 year-old Madame Curie shortly after the death of her husband, Pierre Curie, with whom she won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 for their discovery and isolation of radium. Her struggles to succeed as a scientist in a man's world, her love affair with her married assistant, her sickness and her eventual second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry for her work in radioactivity, are of some interest but as presented, not at all fascinating.
Local actor Stephen S. Neal is the fourth cast member, playing four roles with his usual aplomb and accents while Angelica Torn, as a woman born in Poland and a French citizen, strangely uses only straight American except for one muttered “Mon Dieu” and is so totally unsympathetic it seems strange that any man would want to bed her. Hana Kalinski, as Marie Curie's simpering niece, makes a pass at something European, and Richard-John Seikaly, well cast as a turn of the century lover, starts off well in the French Accent Handicap, but fades at the finish.
This is a tackily staged affair with minor failures in props, costuming, lighting and set design all adding to the feeling of dissatisfaction.
While The Radiant is a pedestrian show, it deserves more for its world premiere than is provided by Director Ricky J. Martinez and the New Theatre.
See it through April 17 the New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables. Call 305.443.5909 or visit www.new-theatre.org.