Mark A. Kinch and Kristin Carter in
The Seduction of Edgar Degas: The First Dancer
(© Steven Barrett)
Mark A. Kinch and Kristin Carter in
The Seduction of Edgar Degas: The First Dancer
(© Steven Barrett)
The only reason for seeing The Seduction of Edgar Degas: The First Dancer, now at Theater C at 59E59 Theaters, is if you want to learn a little bit about the early career of the famous French artist. If you're looking for a couple of hours of stimulating theater, however, Le Wilhelm's disappointing biographical sketch -- badly directed by the author and less-than-sparklingly performed, at least by Cast A (there are two rotating casts) -- is not the solution.

The play is a fictionalized story about how the then-33-year-old Degas, still in search of his muse, found Eugenie Fiocre, a ballet dancer considered the most beautiful woman in Paris. Mark A. Kinch plays Degas with neither subtlety nor subtext; the character comes off as boorish and self-obsessed. Kristin Carter, who does not look remotely like a ballet dancer, has the unenviable task of having to be "the most beautiful woman in Paris." It doesn't help matters that her poor acting does not compensate for her bad casting. Bob Manus looks right for the part of a rich, bullying patron of the arts, but his Snidely Whiplash-like performance is so over the top that one finally has to blame the director for not reining him in.

Conversely, Kirsten Walsh as Madame Crosnier, an older woman in charge of the ballerinas, plays her part with stylish dignity, while Lauren Ford plays Cleo, a teenage ballerina, with a sweet, understated vulnerability, and Colleen Summa does well as a saucy young dancer.

Wilhelm's physical direction of the play is, of necessity, a pleasantly fast-paced affair. One scene begins sometimes even before the actors from the previous scene have left the small, intimate stage. But Wilhelm should have recruited a stronger director than himself, who might have insisted that the repetitive writing be cut. Moreover, his effort to recreate a Degas painting by posing his actors at the end of the show is heavy-handed and unpersuasive. In every way possible, this show is not Sunday in the Park with George, much as Wilhelm might like it to be.