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String of Pearls

- Backstage with the Playwrights

String of Pearls
A New York Premiere
Primary Stages
59 East 59th Street

Casey Childs: Exec. Producer
Andrew Leynse: Artistic Director
By Michelle Lowe
With Antoinette LaVecchia, Ellen McLaughlin,
Mary Testa, Sharon Washington

Director: Eric Simonson
Set Design: Loy Arcenas
Costume Design: David Zinn
Lighting Design: D.M. Wood
Sound Design: Lindsay Jones
Prop Master: Deborah Gaouette
Production Stage Manager: Emily N. Wells
Asst. Stage Manager: Talia Krispel
Casting: Stephanie Klapper Casting
Press: Barlow Hartman Public Relations
Advertising: Eliran Murphy Group
Managing Director: Elliot Fox
Production Manager: Lester P. Grant
Associate Artistic Director: Tyler Marchant

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 9, 2004

A single strand of family pearls, meant to be worn by a new bride on her special day, cannot be found. Four actresses, in scenarios of female bonding through relationships of family, death, grave-digging, cancer, apartment rental, fishing, swimming, business travel, vacuum cleaning, memories of loss, sex, and finally, once again, gift-giving, find and pass along the famous pearls, even when they are mistakenly assumed to be fake. The pearls are the fifth character, not to mention all the imaginary ones, through memories, personal asides, and glowing recitations. Ellen McLaughlin, Mary Testa, Antoinette LaVecchia, and Sharon Washington are all absolutely astounding, in their quick changes of wigs, costumes, and props, as they shed or grow 30 years or more, as well as change mannerisms, mood, vocal tone, and facial characteristics.

With a simple set of moveable walls and enclosed water, which seem to fast forward or reverse time and relationships, one or two actors at a time appear in vignettes that are mesmerizing and momentous. One vignette, with Ms. McLaughlin, as a grandmother, relating her acquisition of the new pearls, as a gift from a newly deceased husband for a sexual revival, was humorous, yet riveting. Another vignette, presented by Ms. Washington, as a landlord of a woman dying of cancer and her rambunctious children, described in detail the emotional and physical ravages of the disease. Ms. Testa, in one of her finer moments, was a ballet company executive, who agreed to travel to Paris, where she encountered stark memories of the death of her sister, that had occurred before her eyes.

Ms. LaVecchia, as a new generation daughter, looking for a different kind of marriage from that of her abrasive and antagonistic mother, presented her own unique revenge. There were many vignettes, many stories, and many imaginary loved ones, including husbands, sisters, and children. There were also, among the imaginary, Nazis, bosses, fish, a vacuum cleaner, other husbands, a hospital, and a graveyard. But, the pearls were real, so pure, so white, so round, against a blue velvet box, and either worn or displayed in the most admired and adored fashion.

Kudos to Writer, Michelle Lowe, to Director, Eric Simonson, and to Primary Stages and this superb cast for one very enjoyable afternoon at the theatre.

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