"Master Class" -- Music Theatre of Connecticut

--Irene Backalenick

Irene Glezos gives a stellar performance, using heart, soul, and all other available body parts to create her particular Maria Callas. The Terrence McNally drama, “Master Class,” now playing week-ends through November 17 at the Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC), gives Glezos ample opportunity to create a larger-than-life Callas.

Glezos portrays Maria Callas as a would-be teacher, working with young, aspiring singers. She uses the “master class” format. But is Callas really helpful to these youngsters, as she rips apart their egos--and their performance styles? No doubt Callas sends forth a strong message about the role of art -- and artistes -- in our culture. But is she really sending these novices on the way to opera stardom -- or even to a serviceable career in the field?

At the same time we get a sizeable dose of the Callas past, as her memories take over. The soaring Callas success at La Scala is posed against her tragic liaison with Aristotle Onassis. We see Callas as she was -- and is. But instead of directing her righteous anger against her former lover, she takes it out on the students. McNally, skilled playwright that he is, stirs up a delicious stew. The play is an intensive character study, while at the same time interspersed with arias delivered live, on stage.

In the intimate setting of MTC (a 50-seat theater), this “Master Class” is a unique experience. Would one ever want to be part of a Callas master class, treated as students? In this case, actress Glezos constantly involves the front row viewers as she aims comments in their direction.

If there is any criticism to be made of the Glezos performance -- or the McNally play itself -- it is that it tends to be repetitious. The verbal beating goes on interminably.

Fortunately, the Callas tirade is matched by the young students themselves (played beautifully -- and in fine operatic voice -- by Charlotte Munson, Andrew Ragone, and Emma Rosenthal). When we can hardly stand Glezos/Callas for one more moment, we are given solid doses of delicious music.

In all, director Kevin Connors (Artistic Director of MTC) has put his own stamp on this memorable drama. Indeed, a unique “Master Class.”

This review also appears on nytheaterscene.com

* Contact Us * Designed by Rokoco Designs * © 2008 CCC *
CONNECTICUT CRITICS CIRCLE