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Saturn Returns

Noah Haidle
Finborough Theatre
(2010)

Saturn Returns publicity photo

New York-based Noah Haidle has written a time slip play that takes us into the soul of Gustin, a Frankfort, Michigan doctor at three points in his life. It starts in 2008 with Richard Evans playing the ornery, 88-year-old variety, a man desperate for companionship.

As his younger self might have purchased the favours of a lady of the night, the eccentric oldie does something not that different with Suzanne, a caring carer. Like the play's two other females, she is played by Lisa Caruccio Came. Rather than her body, it is the kindly woman's mind that he happily pays to rent for a few hours.

Slowly, she teases out fragments of a doubly sad story from someone who turns out to be a Character with a large capital C.

Tracking back thirty years, we join Nicholas Gecks as middle-aged Gustin, now accompanied by his devoted but justifiably frustrated daughter, Zephyr. This adaptation of our hero is wearying in the extreme, not so much irritating as right on the border of madness, which is unfortunate, as he should be the lynchpin of the drama.

This self-pitying specimen is hard to conceive as a doctor or the same character as himself in the other scenes. He has almost literally enslaved his nearly 30-year-old daughter and one can readily understand the desperate woman's efforts to palm off her childishly self-obsessed father on the unseen Bonnie, so that she can belatedly start a life.

The seeds of Gustin's problems are sown back in 1948, when we see his love for pretty wife Loretta. She is still hurting badly after a miscarriage but is soon heartened by a trip to the Symphony with the young man played by Christopher Harper.

What we know and they do not is that the ensuing night will bring a birth and a death nine months later, both simultaneously represented by Loretta's scarlet scanties.

Saturn Returns, which first saw the light of day at Lincoln Center Theater, has the germ of a good idea and in Evans's incarnation offers a character well worth developing.

However, Haidle works too hard to make his plot follow an outline even when it challenges character or makes two Gustins beat up the third. In addition, his middle one struggles for credibility, while the youngest is underwritten.

As such, this 80 minute long transatlantic transfer under the direction of Adam Lenson is worth seeing for the promise of a writer who has already proved himself in the States, without achieving what should have been possible given the original concept.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher