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One-man production inaugurates Theatre Lobby, a North End cabaret

THEATRE LOBBY PROVIDES ATMOSPHERE, DRAMA, MUSIC AND MORE

THEATRE LOBBY OPENS WITH PLAY ABOUT ORCHESTRA LIFE

NEW THEATRE LOBBY IS A WINNER

THE DOUBLE BASS

Written by Patrick Suskind.

Starring Louis Fantasia.

216 Hanover Street, Boston

Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 pm,

Sundays at 3:00 pm through April 22.

Cabaret-style entertainment and dining, before and after show.

By DAVID M. J. SASLAV

THE NEWLY-OPENED THEATRE LOBBY should fill an intriguing niche in the spectrum of Boston nightlife. In search of an unconventional combination of theatre-in-the-round, European dining, cabaret, and classical music in Boston's North End, the culturally-minded will find something of all of these in this fledgling establishment. The highlight of the evening's cross-cultural bill of fare is a fascinating one-man production entitled "The Double Bass."

Patrick Suskind's play stars Louis Fantasia as a frustrated, fatalistic double bass player in a "West German state-supported orchestra." Reflecting dolefully upon his lot and that of double bassists in general, he cannot help but discover certain universal truths of human nature. The character's sexual frustrations are intimately tied to the hulking, forboding double bass, which becomes a symbol for the object of his affections. Stroking the strings takes on new, Freudian overtones and blends quickly with the overtones of the instrument -- a highly-charged climax of sound is the result.

Throughout the production, which is impeccably staged, lit, and sound-engineered, we are treated to highly intelligent writing that never allows the mind to wander. Suskind's words spew forth as quickly and sharply as pizzicato passages; the turbulence between his lines resonates like the low F Fantasia plays early on in the show (Fantasia actually took double bass lessons to prepare for this role and was rewarded with a Dramalogue Award for Outstanding Achievement in Los Angeles.) Sweating profusely, Fantasia must down a beer almost every other line in order to maintain fluid equilibrium, and the torrid fluid flow seems to match the dramatic flow.

Taken as a whole, this play is an eclectic's delight. We are taken on a tour through the history of the double bass' evolution; at lightning tempo, Fantasia relates some fascinating behind-the-scenes viewpoints on some of the major romantic composers. At no time do we feel left behind or left out, though; each opinion is intimate and easily identified with. And as each topic inevitably swings back to his obsession with "Sarah," a minor soprano soloist in the upcoming production of Wagner's Siegfried, we know we are watching a character of realistic proportions, not some detached source of musical trivia. In the end, his fantasy of disrupting the gala opening night festivities with loud proclamations of his love will have to serve to saturate his appetite; his professionalism forbids actual consummation.

Interspersed throughout the production are delightful musical excerpts; Brahms' Symphony No. 2, the Overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" and Dorabella's aria from "Cosi Fan Tutti," both by Mozart, and Schubert's "Trout" Quintet are the pinnacles. Fantasia also plays for us the entire first movement of what he considers to be the finest double bass concerto ever written: Dittersdorf's, in E. The happy work serves to epitomize the hopelessness of Fantasia and his double-bass-playing brethren; no one will ever write extensive music for an instrument with with such grotesque sonorities. The play ends to the opening strains of the sole exception, Schubert's "Trout".

After The Double Bass, patrons adjourn to the main lobby area, where non-alcoholic beverages may be purchased and consumed to the sound of up to three consecutive cabaret shows. Various artists, mostly area jazz professionals, occupy these slots. The Didi Stewart Trio played at the gala opening; upcoming appearances by David Reider and David Hathorn (classical flute and guitar music from Brazil, tonight), sax player Circie Miller (of Girls Night Out, tomorrow), Diana Herald (a marimba trio, Thursday), and more promise a wide variety of international sounds.

Students get a full 50 percent discount off the $15 admission price, making the Theatre Lobby a wonderful bargain. Should the management decide to lower the volume in the main lobby area a bit, you will find a relaxed, intimate setting -- spending an evening listening, talking, and drinking here is a charming undertaking. The Theatre Lobby is open an hour before each showing of The Double Bass as well; during this time, food will be served, but be warned that the prices are way out of the average student's range. Too bad, too, because this is the one factor not in line with the Parisian bistro concept, an otherwise perfect idea in a university town with the diversity of Boston. Eat at home, but then head for the North End -- this show is not to be missed.