The Diana Tapes
The behind-the-scenes complications of Andrew Morton’s 1992 book about the Princess of Wales is explored in this slight play that’s well performed.
In 1991 Colthurst would bring to Diana Morton’s questions and she would record her responses on cassette which Colthurst would give to Morton. This was during the era of her crumbling marriage to Prince Charles and their mutual affairs.
Mr. Clements’ treatment of these events is straightforward and confirms existing perceptions of these figures. Diana is charismatic but immature and self-aggrandizing, Morton is a go-getter, O’Mara is a wily opportunist, and Colthurst is noble. That there are no surprises or fresh insights could be overcome if the production had vitality but it doesn’t.
There are numerous scenes shifting between a London café, the publisher’s office in SoHo and Kensington Palace. Madeline Wall’s scenic design is a functional assembly of modern conference tables, chairs and cubes. Ms. Wall’s prop design is cumbersome and that is amplified by director Wednesday Derrico’s slack staging.
A scene ends, the lights dim and the actors then rearrange furniture, take objects away and put new stuff out. This routine is repeated over and over and slows the action down. A labored attempt at a coup de théâtre for the finale is equally wan.
Jorge Morales Picó’s sound design is a jarring and muddy rendering of blaring electronic music. Lighting designer Elizabeth M. Stewart achieves visual depth with her adept efforts. Ms. Wall’s costume design has stylish ensembles for Diana and basic everyday wear for the men.
The alluring Ana Cristina Schuler is a winningly credible Diana. Author Clements is pleasantly boisterous as Andrew Morton. Spirited Sam Hood Adrain’s Michael O’Mara is energetic. The subdued Picó (who is also the sound designer) is sympathetically solid as Dr. Colthurst.
The Diana Tapes is a presentation of the theater company What Will the Neighbors Say?. Their goal is to “create theatre that examines historical, social, political and economic narratives that have been disregarded, misrepresented, or otherwise untold in order to provoke discourse in our audience and community.”
The saga of Princess Diana is certainly rich material for the stage but that potential hasn’t really been demonstrated here.
The Diana Tapes (through June 10, 2018)
Producer: What Will the Neighbors Say?
HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.wwtns.org
Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission
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