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The Gift Horse



The Gift Horse, Goodman Theatre. Lydia Diamond's new play essentially moves Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles out of the world of privileged Jews and into the world of privileged African-Americans. There's the same arty protagonist, gay best friend affected by AIDS, and ultimate solution to all problems: a baby. Diamond shares other characteristics of Wasserstein's too: crackling dialogue that occasionally turns glib, male characters more like women's fantasies of men than the real article, and a clumsy way with revelations. And since The Gift Horse includes revelation on a scale Wasserstein has never attempted, this last flaw looms large.

Yet the play is worth seeing. It has genuine humor and respects both characters and audience. Its experiment with form--putting a music-playing dream figure beside the realistic action and giving her realistic problems of her own--is innovative and successful. Most important, Chuck Smith has given it a perfect production: fluid, nuanced, making the most of its strengths. All six cast members acquit themselves well, a sure sign of good direction. Lynn M. House is fine as the protagonist, Ruth, around whom everything and everyone revolves--an awkward position House manages with grace. Andrew Navarro as the gay best friend and Tim Edward Rhoze as the husband do well; but Yvonne Huff as the mysterious cello-playing Jordan walks away with the show. Comic and thoughtful, her performance alone is worth the price of admission.

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