THE PEAR IS RIPE by Shirley Barrie, directed by Molly Thom, with Elisabeth Feltaous, Paul Babiak, Colleen McLay, Mary Durkan, Adam Revesz, Aaron Willis, Sean Curran, Jane McGregor and Lindsay Empringham. Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley). Runs to November 10, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $15, Thursday two-for-one, Sunday pwyc. 416-364-4170. Rating: NN
the pear is ripe deals with an intriguing topic -- the Saint-Simonians, an 1830s French social reform movement that sought equality for women and the poor, advocating education and technology as means to these ends. But this pear isn't yet ripe. The script needs more focus and a stronger production before it achieves real succulence.
Author Shirley Barrie looks at the real-life Suzanne Voilquin, a seamstress swept up by the movement and its leader, Prosper Enfantin. Adept at explaining the movement's issues to others, a contributor to a women's collective newsletter and a fiery believer in the Saint-Simonian cause, Voilquin watches as its leaders rationalize deserting the cause.
Barrie nicely captures the class, sexual and gender tensions in the group, and in some scenes plays them into strong drama. But the tale, set in Paris and Egypt, has too much panoramic sweep -- it feels both disjointed and too filmic and needs more concentrated storytelling.
Molly Thom's production only occasionally catches the work's imagination. The best acting comes from Mary Durkan as a conservative Saint-Simonian leader and Paul Babiak as Enfantin, who clearly conveys the guru's seductive, manipulative qualities, if not always his charisma. Elisabeth Feltaous's too-contemporary Suzanne needs more range and depth to make the character succeed.