Playwright: Susan Hahn
Circle Theatre, 7300 W. Madison St., Forest Park
Phone: ( 708 ) 771-0700; $25
Through March 13
BY SCOTT C. MORGAN
Metaphor can be an invaluable tool in buttressing powerful poetry. But metaphor alone usually can't bear the weight of an entire play.
Just look at Golf, now in its world premiere engagement at Circle Theatre. Acclaimed for her collected poetry books Holiday and Mother in Summer, local poet Susan Hahn takes a valiant but unsatisfactory swing as a playwright in Golf.
Hahn presents the game, its rules and its disputed national origins as a metaphor for competition and living life in Golf. She also hinges her work around some titan-sized 20th century icons: Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel and Eva Braun, the notorious mistress of Adolph Hitler. The barking dictator also makes an appearance in Golf, but under the generic title of 'He II.' A prominent Chanel lover, sportsman Arthur Capel, also appears with the similar moniker 'He I.'
Despite the fascinating and oversize historical figures Hahn has chosen, the dramatic tension is nil and the dialogue is stilted. The plot largely consists of Chanel trying to instill some proto-feminist ideals into Braun during a series of dress fittings in occupied Paris, while Braun blathers on and worries about what He II will think of her. Interspersed between these scenes, He I offers monologues on proper golf etiquette, dress and philosophy that would not be out of place at a corporate motivational seminar for bored executives. He II's main job is to be an evil and menacing ogre.
While Hahn offers some beautiful imagery and thoughtful notions in Golf, it doesn't make for involving theater.
At least the physical production is nothing to sneeze at, while the cast of four do their best with this dramatically inert material. On Bob Knuth's combo Astroturf/luxury fitting room set, Mierka Girten's Chanel coming off best. With her no-nonsense approach and striking figure in James Raby's elegant couture, Girten conjures up elegance as one would expect for Chanel.
The rest of the cast have less to work with. So Gene Cordon shouldn't be blamed for his angry grimacing as the one-note He II, nor Cat Dean for her slightly grating whining as the oblivious and fretful Braun.
Josh Odor looks quite dapper in his creamy golf outfit, but his delivery of He I's many monologues could use some variety to break up their sameness.
Why director Ann Filmer and Circle Theatre caddied up to Hahn's Golf is a mystery. Its combination of recognizable historical figures and sport sounds intriguing, but in execution Golf lands way off course.