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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 4, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 23
13th of Paris a fun look at modern love
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13th of Paris a fun look at modern love

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The 13th of Paris
Seattle Public Theater
Through June 13


It's a cold and dreary spring, but at Seattle Public Theater, their new production is full of hearts, flowers, and love letters wrapped in beautiful ribbons. The 13th of Paris, by Mat Smart, is a love letter to love. Poor, modern Vincent - he of text messages and e-mails to his girlfriend, but not of the handwritten letter (who among us writes letters anymore?) - feels like he doesn't know what love is or how he will know if it is "real." He thinks he loves his girlfriend, but what if they get bored? What if they sit at a fancy dinner out and have nothing to say? What about the times when they irritate each other? She seems more perfect than he is; will she leave him over his quirks and mistakes?

Vince's grandparents are French and he inherited their little French apartment when he turned 18. He has a huge pile of letters his grandfather wrote his grandmother, and they all speak of a sort of ├╝ber love affair, full of quotes like, "I seem to have fallen more in love with you since breakfast." Vince holds those sentiments up as the ultimate in love and doesn't think he has that with Annie. One night, he impulsively gathers the letters and hops a plane to Paris, trying to figure out what he should do.

He finds the ghost of his grandfather, in a pinstriped suit, ready to instruct him on how to show the proper respect to love. He also visits with Annie's best friend Jessica and her husband of a year, William. Annie and Vince had attended their Parisian wedding and Vince wants to see if Jessica thinks Annie should stay with Vince. Jessica has some surprising and life-altering information for Vince. It also turns out that Jessica's and William's great marriage has some hugely unique challenges. These revelations add to the complicated struggle about what love is really about.

This play is a wonderful combination of the old and the new. Frank Lawler, as the grandfather, brings the perfect feeling of old-world charm to the role in one of his sweetest performances. He's matched by a quiet beauty as Candace Vance demonstrates the grandmother's love, as they revisit their first meeting and their last day together. Trick Danneker and Emily Chisholm as Vince and Annie are the complete modern couple, feeling like everything has been remade in this high-tech world, so maybe their love is not like how love used to be. Danneker is a mass of messy emotions and Chisholm is a calm counterpoint of security, and both of them pull no punches in expressing their immediate thoughts to each other.

The short visit with a hysterical couple (Angela DiMarco and David Hogan) presents even a third look at relationships, where huge flaws and stifling foibles can still be overlooked. While their boisterous, drunk activities skirt the edge of being from another play, they add a quirky reality to the compromises of marriage.

Director Shana Bestock has pulled together a little gem of a play, with an excellent cast, a really fabulous set by Andrea Bryn Bush showing the little French walkup and the building across the street, soft lighting changes by Andrew Smith, and period-spanning costumes by Pete Rush. Even though you know how it probably ends, it still could bring a tear to your eye. For more information, go to www.seattlepublictheater.org or call 206-524-1300.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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