Kevin Cristaldi, Margot White

Kevin Cristaldi, Margot White



By Peter Haas




Julia Richards, a celebrated writer, is invited to speak to an audience about her career. As she delivers her talk, she stops, begins to reflect, shifts gears, and turns her original presentation into a personal narrative, talking about her education as a writer, the man who taught her, and the ups and downs of their relationship. It’s this narrative that is brought to life on stage in “A Dish For the Gods,” Victor L. Cahn’s newest play, presented at Lion Theatre, on West 42nd Street’s Theatre Row.

The stage is tiny – four strides across, one-plus from front to back – and furnished with a table and a few chairs. Yet director Adam Fitzgerald imaginatively makes the most of it, as the actors themselves, shifting the furniture naturally as they speak, seamlessly transform the set throughout the play into a lecture stage, office, classroom and home living room.

And it’s the actors who transform what could have been a static talk-fest into a human portrayal of two people’s careers, their shifting relationship, and the final outcomes. The principal performing burden falls upon Margot White, who, as Julia, is on stage from start to finish as she recounts her story and, as well, assumes the character of who she was at that point in it. It’s not a huge swing in characterization; Julia is consistently Julia throughout. However, Ms. White navigates the time shifts deftly, believably, winningly.

Her co-star, Kevin Cristaldi, is right up there with her, believably rugged and complex as her college writing teacher and eventual lover. It’s a difficult part, calling for him to represent many moods. The direction also calls for him to pop in and out of scenes from both sides of the stage, like a figure in a Swiss cuckoo clock.

The writing itself, particularly Julia’s expository monologues, felt at times a little formal, as if it were created for the eye rather than the ear. “Our time together was grimly finite,” she comments at one point. So, at that moment, was believability – quickly saved, however, by Ms. White’s charm, subtle mobility and expressiveness.

The behind-the-scenes support was thoroughly professional and appropriately invisible, while the tiny theater added intimacy and immediacy to the evening. The run continues through October 5.Theatre Row box office, 410 West 42nd   212 239-6200


 *Photos: Jon Kandel