‘Passion’ Ignites the Claire Trevor School of Arts

Courtesy of UCI Claire Trevor School of Arts

Courtesy of UCI Claire Trevor School of Arts

Courtesy of UCI Claire Trevor School of Arts

Courtesy of UCI Claire Trevor School of Arts

Courtesy of UCI Claire Trevor School of Arts

Courtesy of UCI Claire Trevor School of Arts

“To die loved, is to have lived.” A beautiful sentiment spoken by Fosca, a woman forgotten by society and fated to die. Trapped in a spiral of unrequited love, Fosca’s anguish grips the hearts of anyone familiar with the pain that accompanies passion.

Off-Broadway veteran Kent Nicholson brings “Passion” to the Claire Trevor Theater. Douglas’ production endeavors to understand the effects that unbounded love has on people. As a concert version of the musical, the show utilizes few props and no backdrops. This minimalist approach relies heavily on stage lighting and the actors’ skills to create meaning.

Beginning in Milan 1863, a single beam of red light illuminates a lone bed draped in fiery satin sheets. Giorgio and Clara emerge, two lovers in the heat of yearning. They disrobe and passionately make love.

Actors Caitlin Brooke and Joseph Abrego deliver stunning performances as the lovers. Each look, each sensual touch, pulls the audiences deeper and deeper into Giorgio and Clara’s love affair. While their performance leaves little to be desired, their vocal work did not live up to their acting. Individually, each actor did a fine job singing in the first number, “Happiness.” Together, however, their voices failed to mesh. Giorgio overpowered Clara, whose voice failed to carry through to the audience at times in her lower register.

While away from his love, Giorgio meets Fosca. Fosca is repulsive, sickly and socially awkward. She is the opposite of Clara in nearly every way. That being said, actress Samantha Aneson does a phenomenal job portraying Fosca. Aneson brings a whole new level of skill and mastery to the production. She is arguably the show’s shining star. Her expressions, subtle gestures and vocal talent capture the essence of misery and heartache.

Meanwhile, Giorgio’s longing for Clara is sang aloud from letters he sends home; the numbers are appropriately titled “Letter One” through “Letter Four.” The two lovers stand on opposite sides of the stage, Clara in a ruby red dress and Giorgio in a fiery blazer. Red, the color of love, lust and passion engulfs the stage and the actors. Fosca, originally dawning a maroon wrap, subtly exchanges it for a black one as she finds her love unrequited.

The blue light that bathes the stage visually depicts Fosca’s heartache. The orchestra accompanying the production adds subtle nuances, which make the tragedy all the more believable.

The chemistry between Aneson and Abrego creates a strange dynamic between the two characters. Even as the plot pushes them further apart, the scenes between these two actors are the most compelling in the whole production.

Despite her wretchedness, Fosca inspires sympathy. Her anguish and pain affects the audience just as it does Giorgio. For anyone who’s had his or her heart broken, it’s easy to sympathize, even root, for Fosca.

The biggest number in the musical, “Finale,” features all the actors in the production. It’s a nice end to an emotional play. The actors really come together and give it their all for this last act.

Undoubtedly, they have spent countless hours of rehearsal preparing for this production, and it shows in their execution of this challenging show.

“It’s important for me to get the audience invested in the story and the emotion of the production,” said Nicholson. “(Passion) is very emotional, and I felt like we accomplished that goal.”

The production reminds us that love is something beyond our powers. Love and passion inevitably leads to anguish, but also bliss. “Passion” is another fiery success for the Claire Trevor School of the Arts.