Sensitive Play Transcends One Woman’s Story
No. You do not have to be knowledgeable about the volatile relationship between Zelda and her famous author husband F. Scott Fitzgerald to see and enjoy the Chicago Premiere of Zelda at the Oasis. Yes. You will certainly learn more about this fascinating couple, but even better, you will see an excellent character study of a fragile woman who has failed to achieve her (perhaps impossible) goals.
The entire one-hour play (without intermission) takes place in the 1930s, after hours, in the aptly named Oasis Bar where a capricious woman is seeking respite. Zelda, played with great sensitivity by Amy Grey, is dressed to the nines, looking as if she has come from some elaborate function. Alone in the bar, she sings, dances, cuts up paper napkins, and pours out her heart to the bartender/pianist Guy F. Wicke, who also skillfully plays many people from her past.
Not only does Wicke portray her husband Scott, but he takes on the roles of her psychiatrist, a journalist who had come to interview her husband (but not her), Ernest Hemingway, her dancing teacher, a former lover, and even her mother. Each transition — tantalizingly not chronological — explores a new fact of her life and each is smooth and subtle, exploring and explaining how she came to this moment — unhappy, tipsy, forlorn. The best is a sensitive moment when she waltzes with F. Scott, showing all the facets of their relationship –love, romance, control. It brings to mind the title of her only novel — Save Me the Waltz.
The major questions of Zelda’s life — plumbed in biographies — are still provocative and still unanswered. Was she more than a muse to her husband? Did she actually author many of his words and remain unacknowledged? Was she thwarted by this marriage from becoming something in her own right? A dancer? An Artist? An author? And how does this apply to the roles of many women who feel kept in the shadows — certainly a concern that moves this play from the plight of one to the recognition of many.
Kudos to playwright Patricia Lin for sensitively and creatively culling a great bulk of biographical material into a meaningful depiction and to Elayne LeTraunik for excellent direction.
Zelda at the Oasis, which originally opened in New York, ran there for 14 weeks.
Beverly Friend, Ph.D.
Member, American Theater Critics Assn.
Raven Theater West Stage, 6157 N. Clark, 773-338-2177.Tickets $30 (discounts for students and seniors, or from Goldstar) , 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 3:30 p.m. Sundays, through August 23. Run time one hour (without intermission).