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THEATER | Theater Review

'Modigliani's' Canvas of Tortured Emotion

December 30, 1999|JANA J. MONJI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Before rock 'n' roll, the artistically tortured had to settle for drugs and sex. In a revival of Dennis McIntyre's "Modigliani," at the Met Theatre, Amedeo Modigliani (Matthew Klein) is a nervous, twitchy addict who is incongruously paired with clean and comely poet Beatrice Hastings (Meredyth Hunt).

Set in 1916, a few years before his death, Modigliani is scraping the bottom of poverty, laughed at by the prosperous though unseen Picasso. He longs for hashish but gets by on stolen whiskey or wine.

In her neat, fashionable clothes (costume design by Carol Kapuza), Hunt's Beatrice beams health. But Klein's artist and his artist friends, Chaim Soutine (Mark Kelly) and Maurice Utrillo (Robert Stoccardo), are dirty louts in threadbare, mismatching clothes.

Except for the script's exposition toward the end, director Dan Polier doesn't demonstrate why this Beatrice consorts with these men. Her departure comes as no surprise, but the emotional crush of the decision is also eliminated.

Larry Sousa's simple set design of window frames, tables and a metal bed works well enough. Yet despite good performances by most of the cast, the emotional sweep is lost in the poor scene transition and the inexplicable pairing of Hunt's poet and Klein's intense artist.

BE THERE

"Modigliani," Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. Dark through Jan. 5. Then Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Jan. 30. $15. (323) 957-1152. Running time: 2 hours.

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