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Sweet Table at the Richelieu 

Last Planet Theater revives an undeservedly obscure play about rich people mingling at an elegant hotel

Wednesday, Oct 17 2001
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Last Planet Theater was the first group in history to put on a festival of Wallace Shawn's plays. It also did a local premiere of Pinter's Moonlight and recently revived, of all things, Michael McClure's adaptation of Kafka, titled Josephine the Mouse-Singer. Neglected scripts are the troupe's specialty, and Sweet Table at the Richelieu, by Ronald Ribman, certainly qualifies. This obscure play had a distinguished premiere at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge 14 years ago, directed by Andrei Serban, who more recently directed Wagner's Ring cycle in San Francisco. Sweet Table is as brilliant as it is overlong. A rich crowd of aristocrats and phonies mingles around the dessert table at an elegant hotel, the Richelieu, vacillating between treacly witticisms and visions of horror. Frau Von Kesell (Michael Leitch) is an insufferable old snob and boor who rants about the decline of civilization as she gorges on cream pie and brandy. The piece focuses gradually on the modest, charming Jeanine Cendrars (Sarah Neal), a recent divorcee with an unspeakable past. The acting ranges from excellent (Leitch and Cendrars) to lame (Matt Leshinskie, with a bad French accent); Carolyn Padilla performs two a cappella lieder in uncertain tune and unrecognizable German. The production fails to cast a dreamlike spell, but it is, occasionally, funny.

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