Rob Campbell, Elisabeth Waterston and Dana Eskelson
in Lascivious Something
(© Carol Rosegg)
Rob Campbell, Elisabeth Waterston and Dana Eskelson
in Lascivious Something
(© Carol Rosegg)
At the beginning of Sheila Callaghan's Lascivious Something, now being presented by the Women's Project under Daniella Topol's direction, the impassioned and slightly sinister August (Rob Campbell) delivers an overripe and somewhat confusing monologue that has to do with a bottle of extraordinary wine that eventually figures importantly in the ensuing drama. As it happens, the monologue is in sync with the rest of Callaghan's script, which is so overripe and occasionally confusing it seems about to burst.

It's 1980, and August, an expat American, has gone into the tourist trade and also the vineyard business in his adopted country of Greece. The ripeness of grapes, however, is not his only concern. There is also his pregnant Greek wife, Daphne (Elisabeth Waterston), who's in love with him despite his volatile nature, and the arrival of Liza (Dana Eskelson), who appears to be a wayward tourist but turns out to be a former lover of August's with an upsetting secret that isn't revealed until late in the play.

Until that stop-the-presses news flash, the play is essentially tug-of-war between Daphne and Liza for spendthrift August's loyalties. Adding to this Greek bean soup on the boil is a character called Boy (Ronete Levenson), who's actually an adolescent local girl turned tomboy, and, on top of that, a kind of sex toy for August and Daphne.

At one point in the proceedings, Daphne and Liza go shopping at a nearby mall, and Liza buys Daphne a $1,200 dress (supplied by costumer Teresa Squire) that makes her look every inch a Greek goddess. Not since Katharine Hepburn donned a similar gown in The Philadelphia Story has anyone looked quite so drop-dead Olympian.

Indeed, Callaghan hints here and there that she's got Greek mythology on her mind -- such as a whiff of pansexuality in a torrid love game dictated by August and participated in by Daphne and Boy. One of Callaghan's other brazen strategies is presenting several histrionic scenes of a nasty nature that are brusquely halted by designer Christopher Akerlind's stuttering lighting cues, after which what is really said and done is depicted. These much milder physical and verbal exchanges are undoubtedly meant to suggest what the characters are really thinking but unwilling to express. Unfortunately, it's a conceit that proves to be illuminating in theory but annoying in practice.

On the plus side, the play does benefit from Campbell's Heathcliff-like performance as August, although somehow the man's plight is not well-enough realized. As the women in his life, Eskelson is nicely vital, Levenson is sullenly plucky, and the scene-stealing Waterston is as beautiful and stately as the script insists.