Beaches Theater's 'Master Class' Plays Well to All

By McClaran, Tamara | The Florida Times Union, March 16, 2005 | Go to article overview

Beaches Theater's 'Master Class' Plays Well to All


McClaran, Tamara, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Tamara McClaran, Shorelines correspondent

Those on both sides of a generation gap could appreciate Master Class, the latest production by the Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre.

The drama by Terrence McNally, which won a Tony for best play in 1996, presents an intimate look at the legendary operatic diva Maria Callas. The show is certain to interest those old enough to remember Callas and the nation's surprise when her former lover, Aristotle Onassis, married Jacqueline Kennedy. Younger viewers may find Master Class a compelling lesson in history.

The show's setting is a conservatory where Callas (played by Karen Garrett) leads master classes in New York City for up and coming singers. Her diva-like behavior provides much entertainment and amusement. The commanding Callas, who is arrogant and embittered, addresses the audience as part of her class. This setting provides an interesting dynamic for both the audience and the actors on stage.

Also in the show is an accompanist, Manny (Leonard Alterman) as well as a stagehand (James MacDonald). Callas works with three singers: a frightened young soprano, Sophie de Palma (Megan Peters), a talented tenor, Tony (Trey Ryan) and a brilliant second soprano, Sharon (Amy Allen), who eventually stands up to the opera diva.

Callas has a presence and doesn't let anyone forget it. Although she is there to teach, this class is a platform for Callas to relish her career accomplishments as she meets with each student one on one. The first student, Sophie, chooses to sing the sleepwalking scene from La Sonnambula, an aria Callas made famous. Before Sophie can sing a complete note, Callas stops her and launches into a performance of her own. When she finally gives Sophie another chance to sing, Callas mentally leaves the room and goes into a monologue about her performance and the rave reviews she received at the famous opera house La Scala.

The next two sessions follow the same dynamic. The second session is with Tony, the tenor, and it sparks Callas to recount the details of her affair with Onassis. …

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