Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury: As soon as actress Stephanie Zimbalist, best known for her role in Remington Steele, stepped onto the Seven Angels stage in Waterbury, she was welcomed with an enthusiastic round of applause.
Throughout the performance, the audience followed her every step and word. They took in her brilliantly colorful costumes, her rolled and pinned-up hair skirting the back of her neck. What no one expected was that Zimbalist, playing opera diva Raquel DeAngelis could actually sing opera. She does and she sings very well. She doesn’t sing much, just snippets here and there, but she sings enough to let us know that she has a good set of pipes. Zimbalist looked great, performed well, won over the audience, and earned more rousing applause at intermission and final curtain.
Her role as a jealous diva, serves her well in Joe DiPietro’s new comedy Living on Love. The play is adapted from Peccadillo by Garson Kanin and directed at Seven Angels by James Glossman. Steve Vinovich plays Vito DeAngelis, the diva’s husband and a famous maestro. Vinovich is a strong match for Zimbalist. They make a solid showing as fast spending husband and wife who are jealous of each other’s careers, successes, and lovers. Each is also very jealous of their competitors. For Vito, he goes into a rage at the mention of Leonard Bernstein’s name. For Raquel, Maria Callas is her nemesis.
When Vito with his over-sized ego contracts for a ghostwriter for his autobiography, he keeps tossing writers out. However, since he really needs the money, he finally settles on a pretty assistant editor. Raquel wants an autobiography as well and takes in a male writer. While they play at “I can do one better than that,” the writer and the editor fall in love. Alex Glossman takes on writer Robert Samson as a nerdy, opera buff who has little self confidence, but swoons over Raquel. Robert is terrified that Vito will kill him. Ali Breneman steps into the skin of Iris Peabody. She too has her fair share of problems including the men in the office and her nagging mother. She lets off steam by throwing forks and spoons at the kitchen wall.
This is not DiPietro’s finest by any means. It lacks sharp wit and comes off tired and old with the exception of the two male butlers. They are hilarious. How could they not be when R. Bruce Connelly is one of them. Connelly is the consummate comedian and a favorite at Seven Angels. He is joined by talented Michael Irvin Pollard as Eric, the other butler. The butlers are like Siamese twins. They are also compulsive obsessive. They create atmosphere for Raquel on demand and they cater to Vito’s every wish.
One of the funniest scenes in the show is when Vito is about to meet the young pretty editor for the first time. He realizes his hair is a mess and with nothing else on hand, uses the maple syrup from his breakfast to dampen his hair in place. When the editor arrives and he tries to seduce her with his performance of “Bolero,” he tells her to think of the most beautiful place on earth. She replies, “Vermont.” He is stunned. She explains that she was thinking “maple syrup.”
Director Glossman brings out the best of the actors as well as the play. Scenic designer and technical director Daniel Husvar created a fabulous set for this play. Lace-like designs are framed on the light orchard colored set and furnishings appropriate for a successful Manhattan couple in 1957, Richard Currie’s lighting design complemented the set, while Matt Martin’s sound design complemented the action spot on. Janell Berte designed the costumes including the wildly outrageous costumes worn by Zimbalist. The production plays through Dec. 6. Box office: 203-757-4676.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org