“The boredom here is such it will make a gambler of you yet.”
So speaks one of the characters in Passion, a minor Sondheim currently being performed at the Domar Warehouse. About 20 minutes in I was about ready to kick off a game of strip poker with my fellow theatre goers-anything to alleviate the boredom.
Passion stars David Thaxton as Giorgio a soldier transferred from Milan where he had been living a comfortable life with adulteress Clara (a luminescent Scarlett Strallen) to a new posting where he becomes the object of desire for the dangerously obsessed and frail and “ugly” Fosca (Elena Roger of Evita and Piaf fame). Fosca is a completely deranged stalker who makes the likes of Annie Wilkes in Misery look like an amateur. She uses her illness and her family connection to Giorgio’s superior to emotionally manipulate Giorgio and blackmail him into doing her bidding. The characters are all profoundly unsympathetic while the female characters especially are particularly wretched. Clara the happy adulteress is little more than a cipher,Giorgio is spectacularly wet and Fosca so barking mad that it is impossible to care about her plight.
All concerned do the best they can with their flimsy parts. Elena Roger suffers for her art draped in hideous smock dresses and swathed liberally in pale make up with heavy black shading to make her cheeks look hollow and her eyes sunken. Despite being saddled with such a pitiful character she sings beautifully and does her utmost to try to make you feel sympathetic to Fosca. Scarlett Strallen looks beautiful and trails star dust in her wake although arguably her performance contained little nuance-we saw nothing of the pain that living such a complicated dual life would have wrought on Clara. Thaxton is very handsome and has a strong voice but can’t overcome the fact that his character is so profoundly wet. The company provides strong support particularly Simon Bailey who is magnetic as Count Ludovic.
At an hour and 45 minutes with no interval the play is rather a slog to get through. The ending when it finally came felt less like an emotional resolution and more like Stockholm Syndrome. The message of Sondheim’s play seems to be that if you aren’t a supermodel you will live a sickly and wretched lonely life but if you stalk some wet lettuce of a bloke for long enough he may just fall hopelessly in love with you. It’s enough to make a feminist weep.