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'Tamara' Intrigues, Amuses N. Y. Critics

December 26, 1987|DAN SULLIVAN | Times Theater Critic

"Tamara"--still running in Hollywood--now has a New York branch. The show opened early this month at the Park Avenue Armory, and the critics were intrigued.

"It is unlike any other show currently in New York," wrote the New York Times' Mel Gussow. "It is a shot of adrenaline for sedentary theatergoers who are accustomed to sitting in the dark and letting the actors do all the work."

Gussow admitted that John Krizanc's play was merely a whodunit, or rather 10 of them in one. But he enjoyed following the action up the stairs and into the bedroom, and he loved Krizanc's "thunderstruck" dialogue--lines like "No one is innocent in Italia!"

"Everywhere something interesting is cooking," wrote William A. Raidy of the Newhouse Newspapers.

"For me," wrote the Post's Clive Barnes, "the most surprising thing is how ingenious and intellectually valid its basic concept is."

Variety reviewer Richard Hummler didn't like the concept of a show with a $135 top (including buffet) playing in a building where homeless people were bunking on the top floors. But Hummler admired designer Robert Checchi's skill in turning the armory into an Italian villa. And he complimented the actors--Sara Botsford as Tamara, for example--for keeping their faces straight.

"Sodom and Tamara" was the headline over Michael Feingold's review in the Village Voice. He found it all fairly trivial and facetious, but "amusement is amusement, and 'Tamara' is amusing. If an ordinary play . . . could arouse the elation, the party spirit that 'Tamara' does, the theater would be much more eagerly attended than it is these days."

A couple of reviewers even made suggestions for "Tamara 2." And everybody liked the buffet.

TAKING LEAVE: William Wingate, executive managing director of Center Theatre Group, told Performing Arts magazine recently that he intended to spend his six-month sabbatical (it starts in January) taking voice lessons and "getting my forehand in shape."

It looks as if he'll be busier than that. Variety reports that Wingate will join with New York producer Marty Bell in a project called New Musicals, a nonprofit venture aimed at developing musical-theater projects for Broadway and other places.

"I'm going to use the time to help Marty get the project off the ground, and then I will decide where I want to place my time and energy," Wingate told Variety.

We called Wingate on Thursday to confirm the Variety story. He said it was basically accurate but overplayed his role in New Musicals a bit. "I'll be spending some time on it, but not all the time. Mainly I'll be helping to see if Marty can find the funding to get over the critical first two years."

Wingate's contract with CTG expires at the end of his sabbatical. Will he renew it?

"I need to step back and get some perspective on where I am and where L.A. theater is," he answered. "Also--I've been doing this 19 years. I want to find out what else of interest is out there for me. By March I should have a pretty good idea of what I'll be up to."

CHEMISTRY: CTG/Mark Taper Forum artistic director Gordon Davidson continues his ongoing association with Flora the elephant. Flora was one of the stars of the Taper's 20th birthday party in April. Now Davidson will direct her in Circus Flora at Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in May in Charleston, S.C.

IN QUOTES: Jack O'Brien, artistic director of the Old Globe Theatre: "I put 'director's statements' somewhere in the vicinity of designer Christmas trees. They fascinate me, but I don't care to have one. Let the play speak out."

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