STAGE REVIEWS : 'A Lovely Light': Marion Ross as Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay and her famous "candle" quatrain, synonymous with rebellious flaming youth of the '20s, seem perfect for a women's theater festival that's all about empowerment.

But in the one-woman Millay drama, "A Lovely Light," at UCLA's Ralph Freud Playhouse Saturday, the poet's candle failed to burn at both ends. The piece is such a proper domestic candle it barely illuminates Millay at all.

Marion Ross (best actress Emmy nominee for "Brooklyn Bridge") wrings more life out of Dorothy Stickney's chronicle play than the material merits. Using Millay's letters and poems, Stickney wrote a celebratory but bloodless tribute that catches little of her flamboyance or impact on a whole age.

Written and briefly performed on Broadway in 1960, the play seems flat and clunky next to more recent one-woman pieces such as "Zelda," a similar flapper-era subject that might have served the festival better. At least Ross, deftly moving among three props, animates the text, half-impersonating and half-narrating Millay's life from her Maine-seacoast childhood to her Bohemian days in Greenwich Village to her reclusive final years in the Berkshires, where she died in 1950 at age 58.

Director Norman Cohen's smooth staging was broken up by two intermissions in a play that's only about 95 minutes long. More workable too would have been a more intimate setting.

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