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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.

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Sam Hood Adrain as Michael O’Mara and James Clements as Andrew Morton in a scene from “The Diana Tapes” (Photo credit: Pablo Calderón-Santiago)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

The behind-the-scenes complications of Andrew Morton’s scandalous 1992 book, Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words is dramatized in the slight play, The Diana Tapes. Author James Clements workmanlike script focuses on Mr. Morton, his American ex-patriate publisher Michael O’Mara, Dr. James Colthurst, Princess Diana’s confidant and go-between, and Diana herself.

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.

Ana Christina Schuler as Diana, Princess of Wales, in a scene from “The Diana Tapes” (Photo credit: Pablo Calderón-Santiago)

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.

James Clements as Andrew Morton and Jorge Morales Picó as James Colthurst in a scene from “The Diana Tapes” (Photo credit: Pablo Calderón-Santiago)

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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Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (524 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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