Home Consumer Sondheim’s Swelling ‘Passion’ Explores Nature Of True Love

Sondheim’s Swelling ‘Passion’ Explores Nature Of True Love

Jeni Hacker makes advances on Nicholas Richberg in Zoetic Stage’s production of Sondheim/Lapine’s Passion (Photos by Justin Namon)

Loving you
Is not a choice
It’s who I am.
Loving you is not a choice
And not much reason
To rejoice,
But it gives me purpose,
Gives me voice
To say to the world:
This is why I live.
You are why I live.

Sung with the simplicity of a haiku of unassailable truth, this declaration is among the most powerful and complex expressions in theater history of an all-consuming undeniable love.

It is only one of several incisive and sophisticated assessments of the profundity of abiding true love as opposed to transitory romance in the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musicalPassion, given a memorable outing in Zoetic Stage’s courageous production of a famously difficult and divisive work.

To say that it’s not to every intelligent patron’s taste is an understatement; even Sondheim fans split company over the piece. It’s fluid score and episodic narrative are about as far as mainstream theater can get from traditional verse-and-chorus structure and predictable rhyming schemes; it’s even pretty far out on the edge as far as Sondheim goes.

But if you can open yourself up to it, commit to it, weather the more difficult recitative passages, Passion is a transcendent work of performance art with the power to rip into your psyche and reaffirm the transformative power of love.

By Bill Hirschman, FloridaTheaterOnStage.com, for  SouthFloridaReporter.com, Feb. 21, 2016