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'Outrage' by Itamar Moses
Last uploaded : Saturday 11th Jun 2005 at 20:01
Contributed by : Carol Gould


At the interval of ?Outrage? by Itamar Moses at the Wilma Theatre, Philadelphia (running until 19 June; wilmatheatre.org) ) this play seemed to have all the earmarks of a triumph for the Royal National Theatre. The story of a lazy thesis candidate who becomes caught up in the politics of university funding , the script of Act One had moments of brilliance despite its overlong duration of nearly ninety minutes. Alas, midway through Act Two the irritating intrusion of sexual liaisons had begun to devalue the material to such an extent that one could see and hear audience members squirming and sighing at the repetitious and often tedious twists of what could have been a compelling narrative. One was inclined to feel this was a ?work in progress.?

The scenario revolves around a senior university lecturer, Eugene Lomax (Joel Leffert) and a Don, Adriana Kale, (Erika Rolfsrud) who are locked in conflict over the allocation of a substantial bequest. Set against this is the life of its students, each of whom appears for a few moments in spotlight revealing in painfully poor syntax his or her area of study. The main figure of the contemporary academic year is Steven, (Cody Nicell) a laid-back research student who stumbles upon the great men of the past -- Socrates, (Gregg Almquist) Plato, (Caroline Tamas) Aristophanes, (Joel Leffert) Alcibiades, (Matthew Humphreys) , Galileo (Robert Dorfman) Aristotle (Cody Nickell) and Brecht (Robert Dorfman) and figures from the Inquisition -- in brilliantly drawn discussions of past and present mores. This is the area of the play in which Moses shines, notwithstanding overlong passages, shines brightly.

It is evident that Itamar Moses has emulated Tom Stoppard (one does not have to read the programme notes to deduce this fact) and in the process has engaged in what one might call ?excessive verbal interface? to a point where the dialogue becomes obscure and heavy-handed. To say that the otherwise brilliantly-conceived story is overwritten and overlong is an understatement. At some stage the Director, Jiri Zizka, needed to sit down with the writer and extract segments of the script that overstated a point, most particularly in the humourless arguments between Kale and Lomax. (One could not help imagining what subtle irony and humour could have been injected into this aspect of the play were a British Director and cast to take hold of the material.)

The relationship between Steve and his tutor, Rivnine, (Marc Wolf) is devalued when they become involved in a homosexual affair. Although this liaison is crucial to the eventual triumph of Lomax over everyone in the institution, it is disappointingly formulaic; the message that men who stick to their beliefs more often than not end up murdered, tortured or condemned is diluted by this eventuality. Up until the first embrace Steve seems the average American male in a somewhat turbulent relationship with his tutor and the sudden leap into homosexual ardour is not plausible.

Somewhere in the script of ?Outrage? is a touch of brilliance and even literary genius. . It may sound arrogant but one cannot help envisaging a well-honed and disciplined British production fine-tuning this effort by the eminent Wilma Theatre Company and in this process helping the very young Moses (27) see the strong points of a script that at present is, sadly, cluttered.

Plaudits must go to the set designer, Mimi Lien, whose work is stunning, and to the hard-working cast, virtually all of whom double and triple roles between past and present.


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