Show: Marie Christine
Company: Boho Theatre
Venue: Theater Wit (1227 W Belmont Ave)
BoHo Theatre’s production of Marie Christine by Michel John LaChiusa and directed by Lili-Anne Brown at Theater Wit started with a lurch, talent stilted by muddied sound design and choreography that was both too expansive for a black box stage, and too reductive of voodoo for a show that hinges on it being taken seriously. However, once past these hurdles the cast found their stride and took every opportunity to shine.
The cast was led by Kyrie Courter as Marie Christine, a woman who will do anything to keep the one man she shouldn’t have, in a performance that takes the audience from love struck girlhood to grief-stricken, heartbroken madness, with the use of her agile voice.
Ken Singleton was opposite her as Dante Keys, the smooth talking sailor who steals the heart (and arguably the mind) of Marie Christine, in this adaptation of the Greek tragedy, Medea. Singleton is perfect in his roll of the as an oily scumbag, but isn’t quite charismatic enough for the audience to ever forget the residue such charmers leave behind. It sours Dante’s introduction, but adds a delightfully skeevy quality once he starts to show his true colors.
The musical’s leads were supported by an ensemble featuring a Greek chorus—made up of women dressed in white, the color of magic, whose whites are are dirty and soiled like the theme of corruption that haunts the play’s take on love as something fetid that fouls the waters that would otherwise nurture a good life. The ensemble also included Marie’s European-educated brothers, servants, politicians, prostitutes, and white bourgeoisie. Ensemble standouts include: Katherine Bourne as Lisette, Marie Christine’s maid, who sings with the clear soprano voice of a golden age ingenue; Kevin Webb, whose comedic timing stands out even as he flits through as a gossipy party goer; Neala Barron as Magdalena, the salon owner and performer, whose powerful voice cuts through the second act in counterpoint to Courter’s songs ariatic keening grief; and Averis I. Anderson as Paris, Marie Christine’s more playful brother, the only actor who could handle the show’s occasional foray into patter. Anderson as Paris stole hearts in the first act and broke them in the second with his beautiful voice and skillful acting range.
The cast shines despite the show’s technical hiccups. The musical does occasionally veer into formula and dabbles in shock value (most notably the unnecessary use of the n-word during a sexual assault in the second act). The show’s theme of interracial relations as sexual deviance, the repeated implications that Dante specifically has a taste for the forbidden “chocolate” and the repeated comparisons of Marie Christine with animals might make this show extremely uncomfortable for some theatergoers, especially if they go into the theater with the knowledge that writer Michel John LaChiusa is a white man. Theatergoers who can stomach sitting through the retelling of a classic as an excuse for fetishization writ large, shouldn’t miss “Marie Christine” because the excellent work of the musical’s actors, whose talent and hard work make the production a success, despite the things holding them back, should not be for naught.
Ten Word Summary: Despite playing racism for shock value, cast gives good performances.
Dice Rating: d12 — “Heckuva Good Show”