NORTH GOES SOUTH
As a child, I flew to the stars with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince – a work of youthful wonder tinged with adult melancholy, loneliness, and wistful philosophical musings. In 1939, Anne Morrow Lindbergh – a novelist in her own right, as well as wife of pilot Charles Lindbergh – found her own wings in Saint-Exupéry’s work. The for/word company’s North stages a singular encounter between Anne and St-Ex, whom she later called “a sun or a moon or stars which light earth.” While the play never fully takes flight, it is an admirable production of an intriguing moment that shaped Anne’s entire life.
Reimagined from the letters, journals, memoirs, and fiction of the Lindberghs and Saint-Exupéry, North – written and directed by Jennifer Schlueter – centers on the lovely Anne, demure but with a quick and eager mind. Christina Ritter glows as a woman elegantly striving to balance identities as a wife, mother, writer, and more. While Charles (the straightforward Kalafatic Poole) provides Anne with a stable home life, St-Ex whisks her away with poetry and philosophy. Christopher Marlowe Roche develops St-Ex with a rough and hunched exterior that opens into a boyish curiosity and exuberance upon closer acquaintance. Their meeting of minds is positively electric – although occasionally diffused by Anne’s stepping in and out of the action to narrate.
With three simple wooden swings suspended from the ceiling of Brad Steinmetz’s bare bones set, the stage is set for an imaginative production. Alas, the rapturous potential is again squandered by choppy direction that rarely allows a moment to linger. Scarcely are Anne and St-Ex gliding through the air before they come shuttering to a stop; the creative possibilities of the space’s architecture seem underused, and such a lyrical play calls for a more lyrical physicality: light and breathy, floating on the breeze like the ruffles of Anne’s dress – one of the beautiful period costumes designed by Kristine Kearney.
North rides on the winds of compelling performances and a fascinating historical footnote, but its imaginative possibilities have yet to be fully explored.
photos by Isaiah Tanenbaum
The for/word Company at 59E59 Theatres
scheduled to end on October 28, 2012
for tickets, call 212-279-4200 or visit 59E59