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Foxworth Sings ‘Nightingale’s’ Praises

“I’m not sure he has a lot of good things going for him,” admitted Robert Foxworth of his character in L.A. Theatre Works’ production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “The Love of the Nightingale,” opening Friday at Santa Monica’s Edgemar complex.

“Tereus is representative of the tyranny we often allow to take place,” the actor continued, “whether it be tyranny of silence or silent consent--how it can take place when we’re not outraged, when we’re not moved to speak up on behalf of ourselves and our society. It’s the power of the powerful over the weak, of government over the governed, father over daughter, men over women.”

Wertenbaker, author of “The Grace of Mary Traverse” (1988, at the same site) and “Our Country’s Good” (1989, Mark Taper Forum) has based her story on a Greek myth in which Procne, the eldest daughter of the King of Athens, is given in marriage to Tereus, King of Thrace, as a thank-you for helping Athens win a war. Tereus, however, only has eyes for Procne’s younger sister, Philomele, who rebuffs his advances . . . and then things get a little nasty.

Despite the ensuing tragedy, Foxworth refuses to paint his character as one-dimensional. “I’m not approaching him like a conniving, evil person,” emphasized the actor, who played Chase Gioberti on the long-running “Falcon Crest.” Tereus, he added, “doesn’t think he’s evil. He’s caught in forces beyond his control--love, passion, lust--and it confuses him. He’s used to fighting and struggle; these other things are just beyond him.”

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Presented in period costume and setting but imbued with modern sensibilities, the characters are shadowed by a traditional Greek chorus (15 actors play a multiplicity of roles), which offers the story up for God’s observation. “The story takes place in ancient time but uses modern language,” Foxworth explained. “I play Tereus as a modern man--fighting with the same passions, thoughts and issues that are with us all through time.”

THEATER BUZZ: It’s June, and marriage is in the air--especially at “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding,” where the environmental theater piece has provided a backdrop for some real-life romances. Newly engaged are Pat Cregan (who plays bridesmaid Marina) and actor Paul Navarro, who met two months ago when he attended the show as an audience member. Also engaged are Jack Fris (Michael, Tina’s ex) and Chris Campbell, sister of castmate Mark Campbell (druggie Barry). Eli Ganias (Tony’s brother John) has just left to marry Jean Synodinos (Sister Albert), who’s in the show’s New York company.

CRITICAL CROSSFIRE: “Millennium Approaches,” the first part of Tony Kushner’s work-in-progress about the AIDS generation, is winding up its run at Taper, Too. Oskar Eustis directs.

Said The Times’ Sylvie Drake: “It employs comedy, symbolism, hallucination, death, condoms and contrapuntal scene-playing. It has politicians, ancestors and angels. . . . (It is) at once fascinating, enervating, innovating and in severe need of of a ruthless editor.”

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The Daily News’ Daryl H. Miller found it “thought-provoking and entertaining. Yet it is also unsatisfying because it rambles through a wide range of issues without focusing on any of them or coming to any conclusions. . . . Despite the script’s meandering, Eustis stages it with a driving energy.”

Said the Hollywood Reporter’s Jay Reiner: “In a loose, episodic style, (it) weaves together three different strands from the past. . . . This is an ambitious, freewheeling work, slow to get started, too long, and often lumpy in style--but filled with occasional nuggets of irony and savage humor.”

In the L.A. Reader, Alison Sloane praised Eustis’ “fluid direction. . . . With lyrical dialogue, streamlined structure and surreal sequences, Kushner’s script is still grounded in visceral reality. It is at once a potent examination of society’s decaying compassion and an effective call to action.”


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