Talking Heads

By - Oct 23rd, 2007 02:52 pm
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Angela Iannone in Talking Heads

Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, a series of six monologues, was so succesful in its incarnation on BBC television that it is living another life in live theatre. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre brings these monologues to the stage in two alternating programs at the Broadway Theatre’s main stage this month.

The show opened with a performance of Series A — the all female show. In the first monologue, set in sparse domesticity suggestive of the mid-1980s, attractive actress Lesley (Wendy Bazar) relates landing a marginal role in a marginal film solely because of her physical attributes. It’s a clever bit of comedy revealing the true depth lying dormant in a woman who seems to be genuinely shallow, and what Bazar lacks in presentation (her accent, presumably meant to be British, wavered somewhere between that, Scottish and Irish, and occasionally Southern) she makes up for with a charming presence that nearly carries the monologue.

The second monologue in Series A, “A Lady Of Letters,” features Raeleen McMillion as a lonely old woman named Irene whose civic-mindedness has reached obsessive levels. She’s writing letters to public officials about every conceivable inefficiency and flaw and casting a concerned eye toward house of the young couple that has moved in next door. McMillion carries Bennett’s repetitious monologue with a captivating performance that easily pulls the show through to intermission. Still, it is unfortunate that Bennett stretched this one out longer than it deserved. Certain plot points are repeated in an apparent attempt to pad out the monologue, and while the character is interesting, Bennett does not delve into her personality enough to keep the monologue fresh for its complete cycle onstage.

The show returns after intermission with Angela Iannone in “Bed Among the Lentils.” Iannone, who has shown considerable talent for monologue, plays Susan, a vicar’s wife. Strikingly articulate, Susan is recognized solely for her status and otherwise rarely gets any attention. Here she speaks to the audience in clear stream of consciousness, relishing the opportunity to speak about whatever she wants. Iannone seems to enjoy the role a great deal, delivering Bennett’s humor with soulfully precise comic timing.

A particularly busy weekend for openings didn’t allow for review of Series B, which includes performances by Laurie Birmingham, Norman Moses and Milwaukee Chamber co-founder Ruth Schudson. VS

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of Talking Heads runs through November 4 at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Cabot Theatre. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling the box office at 414-298-7800 or online at www.chamber-theatre.com.

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