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'Souvenir' Is Perfection In New Milford

By Elizabeth Young, Newtown Bee


NEW MILFORD — TheatreWorks New Milford's production of Souvenir is awesome. A night at the theatre I will not soon forget. Written by Stephen Temperley, this comedy with music is immensely entertaining while covering all of the emotional bases.

This production was originally performed at Westport Community Theatre. Under a new director, Sonnie Osborne, the play is being restaged at TheatreWorks. This was an excellent move.

The direction of Ms Osborne takes full advantage of the enormous talent in her cast. She has made clean choices and used a simple elegant set, designed by Scott Wyshynski and Richard Pettibone, to showcase two actors.

Wealthy socialite Florence Foster Jenkins is played to absolute perfection by Priscilla Squiers. Ms Jenkins's tale of musical passion and vocal challenges is told in retrospect by her hired accompanist, Cosme McMoon, played by an utterly charming Greg Chrzczon.

Ms Jenkins adores good music, classical music and fervently believes that she is a gifted singer. She meets and hires Mr McMoon as her coach and faithful accompanist. Initially stunned by the singing disability of Ms Jenkins, he comes to admire her fierce aptitude for delusion, even as it is a constant head scratcher for him.

Claiming that when it comes to music, "the only thing that matters is what you hear in your head," she forges ahead. Cosme is charmed by her as he develops a desire to protect her from humiliation. Ms Jenkins does not embarrass easily. She arranges for concerts at ever bigger venues and albums to be recorded, choosing to hear cheering audiences, not jeering crowds. She is so gullible, naïve and confidant, until she is not. In that moment Cosme consoles and reassures her.

While forfeiting his own career to share her journey Cosme comes to care for her, even as he marvels not only at Ms Jenkins's fancy, but at his own enormous role in it as well.

These two actors may have been born to play these roles Ms Squiers's portrayal of Florence Foster Jenkins is flawless. This gifted performer brings vocal expertise, comedic excellence and depth of character to her part. She is a master at her craft and this role puts it on full display.

Mr Chrzczon's Cosme McMoon is a lovely pianist with a charming, soothing vocal gift. Mr Chrzczon is subtle and yet an actor skilled at conveying a range of emotional content with the gentlest of expressions. He operates under the "less is best" principle and it totally works. He is the calm to her crazy, while revealing a droll wit himself.

The extraordinary use of a copious number of costumes and the changes they require must be mentioned. The clothing is completely in sync with the era. The use of color and design are perfect. The costume changes are seamless and credit must go to the dressers Beth Plotkin and Erin Shaughnessy for their effectiveness and expertise in facilitating these rapid fire changes.

I urge anyone within driving, train or flying range of TheatreWorks New Milford to make every effort to see this play. You will be so, so happy you did.

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