THE TIME OF THE CUCKOO 

* Lincoln Center Theater, New York City * Written by Arthur Laurents * Directed by Nicholas Martin * Starring Debra Monk and Olek Krupa * 

  
Arthur Laurents is one of the gay elder statesmen of the American theater. Legendary as book writer for two classic Broadway musicals (*West Side Story* and *Gypsy*), he also directed the musical version of *La Cage aux Folles* and wrote the screenplays for *The Way We Were* and *The Turning Point*, among others. His plays are less well-known. Lincoln Center Theater is currently reviving his most famous drama, *The Time of the Cuckoo*, which was adapted to the screen for the 1955 Katharine Hepburn movie *Summertime*.

The play centers on Leona Samish, a 40-ish unmarried woman on holiday in Venice whose quest for romance and adventure is thwarted less by language barriers or cultural differences than by her own emotional defenses. The story so smacks of Ď50s hokeyness, a time when Europe represented free love to puritannical Americans (Leona is *shocked* to discover that married people have affairs), that itís hard to tell why Lincoln Center deemed it worth reviving. Perhaps it was to give a plum role to Debra Monk, who is indeed wonderful. She manages to play Leonaís clunky character traits -- her Midwestern bonhomie, her heavy drinking, her sexual uptightness -- as a series of masks for her fear of getting what she wants. Unfortunately, the productionís a mixed bag. The usually impeccable director Nicholas Martin miscast the charmless Olek Krupa as the shopkeeper who courts Leona. The best and most timeless thing about the play is its depiction of terminal pickiness as a sure-fire recipe for chronic loneliness. Sound familiar, anyone?

The Advocate, April 25, 2000

  
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