By Cindy Whitehair
Driving to Ogden last night, my husband and I were not sure what to expect out of Good Company Theatre’s Passion.
With music by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, you know Passion has the theatrical genes to be a great show, but this is not one of Sondheim’s upbeat shows. It is a story of love, obsession, and madness. Based on the film Passione d’Amore (which in turn was based on the novel Fosca by Iginio Ugo Tarchetti), Passion tells the story of a military captain (Tito Livas), his lover, Clara (Ginger Bess), and Fosca (Lori Rees) as they discover what moves a relationship from lust to real love. Sondheim, in speaking to the New York Times about Passion, once said, “Our lives aren’t scripted. They’re chaotic. That’s why people enjoy art, not just narrative, but paintings and music, too. It’s about giving order to what everybody knows does not have order at all.” Passion takes that chaos in life and human attempts to bring order to it and lets it take its natural course—warts and all.
Good Company Theatre is not easy to find. It is located in an old warehouse, just off of historic 25th Street in Ogden. Their parking lot ducks in behind the building and is very easy to miss—your best bet is to just hit the public parking across from Union Station and walk in. The space is rough and intimate, and that suits this show particularly well.
Passion is a joy. Bess’s vocals are pure and light. Livas is a very sympathetic Giorgio. I could feel his pain and confusion as he tried to figure out which love was real: the obsessive, almost creepy love of Fosca or the forbidden lust that he has with Clara. Rees’ Fosca is perfectly obsessive. The character is described as plain and sickly, but you see a hidden wisdom and strength to the character. While all three main characters have flaws that make them mostly unsympathetic, they have their moments of vulnerability, and you start to understand where these people are coming from.
The ensemble for this show—Colonel Ricci (David A. Boice), Dr. Tambourri (Dann Howard), Lieutenants Torasso and Barri (Dustin Bolt and Jim Dale), Major Rizzoli (Austin Payne), Sergeant Lombardi (Allen Smith), Private Augenti (Nick Morris), and attendants (Alice Gittins and Nick Rice)—is strong. Sondheim is not easy to do, with multiple rounds and people singing different things at the same time, but this ensemble nails it. Smith, particularly, makes some acting choices that really help his character shine through in all the right ways.
The orchestra (bass Spencer Howe, piano Julie Barker, and percussion Jakob Turley) is a very nice touch. I was concerned, at first, about live instruments in such an intimate setting. They have the potential to completely overwhelm the vocals, but their restraint in remaining in the background is outstanding.
Which leads to the direction and music direction (Paul Naylor and Julie Barker). One thing Perry noticed is that the director was not afraid to have an actor cross the stage without speaking, of having that moment where nothing is being said to allow the pause to emphasize the moment. The moments where the audience feels what is going on (without being told what to feel) are some of the most profound in the show. The stage pictures are all well balanced. All in all, it is a well-directed show.
The set (Design Alicia Washington, Construction Casey Allen and Taylor Knuth, Scenic Change Artist Camille Washington) is simple and stark and fits the theater to a T. Lighting Design by William Richardson helps create the raw feeling of the barren military outpost. The costuming (Direction Kaylee Lloyd and Alicia Washington) and hair and makeup (Lindsea Garside) are perfectly adapted to the period.
Please note, this is not a show for younger audiences. The GCT website rightly advises that this is not appropriate for audiences under the age of 16. There are a couple of scenes that have sexual content.
What I loved most about this show was that it makes you think. This is not theater that you leave singing the catchy tune and feeling good. Rather, you ponder questions like what is love? Is it safe and predictable? Or is chaotic, unpredictable, and often obsessive? I think that is what Sondheim was getting at when he said that life is chaotic—and so is love.
The Good Company Theatre presents Passion by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
Good Company Theatre, 2404 Wall Ave, Ogden, UT 84401
February 9-March 4 Fridays & Saturdays 8:00 PM, 2nd Saturday & Sundays 4:00 PM
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