March 15, 2003


The Wisdom of Eve

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning












For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

The Wisdom of Eve, a short story by Mary Orr published in Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1946, was the basis for the Broadway musical Applause and the Bette Davis film All About Eve. As a play, it won four Tony Awards. As a film, it garnered 14 Academy Award nominations. As presented by the Off-Tryon Theatre Company, it is a vehicle for insider theatre folks who have a lot of time.

Margo Crane is an aging Broadway star with an acerbic tongue and an almost unflappable ego. When a lovely young fan, Eve Harrington, gains access to her dressing room, Margo is easily snowballed by Eve’s show of adoration and her sad sappy story. "I never dreamed I’d inspire someone to go on living," says Margo, right before she hires Eve as her personal assistant.

The story is told from the point of view of Margo’s best friend, Karen Roberts, who unknowingly abets the ambitious young actress in her goal of becoming a Broadway star at any cost. Caught in a web of deceit, Karen betrays her friend, and pays a dear price for misjudging Eve’s character.

Beautiful and statuesque, Caroline Renfro has the makings of a successful Eve. But her dialogue slips into monotone, which steals the drama from her words. Renfro nails the part of Eve’s personality that panders. She doesn’t inject the snaky part of Eve with enough venom.

As Karen, Donna Scott’s speech pattern is maddeningly slow, though her fabulous hairstyle, with bangs rolled into the shape of a frozen can of orange juice, almost make up for it. As Margo, Sheila Snow Proctor embraces her character with a harsh, brassy voice. She is aging with attitude; it’s her only defense.

The world of theatre is depicted as a place of catty conversations and thinly veiled relationships. Friendships are based on ambition, and sex is used as a weapon. Insider jokes about drunken theatre crowds, union demands, and whether or not to stick to the text of a script, solicited laughter from the crowd. In an amusing cameo, Hank West plays the unctuous critic Tally-Ho, who has even fewer ethics than the people he covers.

Director Jimmy Chrismon fails to sufficiently mine the play’s humor. A move to quicken the pace would shorten the run time and greatly improve the production.

Lynn Trenning, March 15, 2003

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