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"Saturn Returns" at Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse

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Lincoln Center Theater
At the Mitzi E. Newhouse
(Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater Website)
Under the Direction of Andre Bishop and Bernard Gersten
Saturn Returns
A New Play by Noah Haidle

Rosie Benton, John McMartin,
James Rebhorn, Robert Eli

Directed by Nicholas Martin
Sets: Ralph Funicello
Costumes: Robert Morgan
Lighting: Peter Kaczorowski
Original Music and Sound: Mark Bennett
Stage Manager: Robyn Henry
Casting: Daniel Swee
Director of Development: Hattie K. Jutagir
Director of Marketing: Linda Mason Ross
General Press Agent: Philip Rinaldi
General Manager: Adam Siegel
Production Manager: Jeff Hamlin

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 20, 2008

Saturn Returns, a transporting and engrossing, intermission-less play by Noah Haidle, is one of the finest new works Iíve seen in some time. Three actors create one character at each of his momentous turning points, 30 years apart, when the planet Saturn returns to the same position in the solar system that it had on the personís birth. That return, called a Saturn Return, is supposed to align with change in each of our lives. Gustin is 28 in 1948, 58 in 1978, and 88 in 2008. The setting for the entire play is Gustinís Grand Rapids, Michigan living room (thanks to Ralph Funicello), in a rambling home (stairs are visible) with too many memories.

Three other characters inhabit this room, at each of the Saturn Returns, in chronologically backward, then mingling time spans, although two are no longer alive. All three youthful characters are created by one actress, a very talented Rosie Benton. And, Gustin, at each 30 year life change, is created by three actors, John McMartin, James Rebhorn, and Robert Eli. In merging, melancholy, and mesmerizing vignettes, Gustin is seen in dialogue in 2008 with his nurse, Suzanne, in 1978 with his daughter, Zephyr, and in 1948 with his new wife, Loretta. Loretta and Zephyr were the focus of his memories, tragic losses that unwind in the dialogues, and each character transforms emotionally and energetically, as the dialogue shifts from grief to gaiety and back.

Marc Bennettís original music and sound are intrinsically woven into the shifting vignettes, with ethereal delicacy. The time spans bring wafting strains of music of the decade, and clothes (thanks to finely detailed costuming by Robert Morgan) reveal the decade as well. Peter Kaczorowskiís lighting dims the living room in quiet sadness and lights it for romance. However, itís the understated and psychologically profound acting, especially from Mr. McMartin and Ms. Benton (who fully alters her vocal and physical persona for the three women in Gustinís life), that enables this play to achieve monumental meaning, rather than just satisfying theater. Gustin is a retired doctor, a man of introspection and intelligence. Thus, losing the two women in his life and choosing to live alone with the familyís possessions and photos, drove him into a private world, impenetrable by outside relationships.

When Suzanne first tries to leave, the feeling of closeness and the experience of communication had become so absorbing to Gustin, that he begged her to stay. At this point, the audience saw the first tare of Gustinís psychological fabric. Robert Eli, as the young medical school student, was a fully devoted and patient husband, even in the face of his wife, Lorettaís neediness and insecurity. James Rebhorn, as Gustin at 58, was forced to set his daughter free, on a secretly planned trip to Mexico. By this time, there were many tares in Gustinís psychic fabric, and he could not let go. The one flaw in the script, at this point, was the inappropriate attitude Gustin had toward women, in the face of his blind dates, organized by Zephyr. Some of his comments seemed sadistic, although he did allow himself to bring one woman into his world. By time he was 88, his fear of losing Suzanne, his cheerful nurse, was palpable. When she cooked eggs, exactly as each of the other two women had cooked eggs for him, in the same kitchen, Gustinís circle closed, and his Saturn Return was revealed. Kudos to Noah Haidle, kudos to the cast, and kudos to Nicholas Martin, Director, for drawing out such fine performances.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at