Katherine Martin & Corey Hardin in The 13th of Paris.
The 13TH of Paris
By Mat Smart
Directed by Gil Reyes
Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
Theatre  is one of the newer companies in the Louisville area, but still I’m embarrassed to say that the first show of their fourth season is the first time I’ve seen one of their productions. And if The 13th of Paris is indicative of the quality of their previous seasons, I am haunted to think what I have missed!
I was impressed before the show even began. In a black box theater like The MeX, you can’t hide your set behind curtains, and as soon as I entered the theater I was in love with Karl Anderson’s beautifully designed setting. It really captured the essence of an aging apartment in Paris, complete with a beautifully realized view from the balcony, nicely enhanced by Jesse Alford’s lighting design.
The story we are presented with involves Vincent (Cory Hardin), who has just arrived in Paris to visit the apartment of his grandparents. He has brought along a suitcase full of letters his grandfather (Ryan Lash) wrote to his grandmother (Kate Bringardner) over forty years ago. He is currently in a crisis in his own love life, having abruptly fled to Paris without telling his girlfriend Annie (Katherine Martin). Vincent also gets a visit from Annie’s Paris-living friends Jessica (Tamara Dearing) and William (Neil Mulac), a married couple with some unusual marital problems of their own.
The best thing the show has going for it is the flawless cast. Hardin is an absolute joy to watch in the central role, bringing more sympathy to Vincent than the character deserves or perhaps the playwright intended. As Vincent’s grandfather Jacques, Ryan Lash steels every scene he’s in with an incredibly funny and lovable performance and flawless French accent. Kate Bringardner is just lovely as Jacques’ younger wife and brings strong emotion to the character’s climactic scenes. Dearing and Mulac are just hysterical as the other couple, providing some of the show’s best comedic moments. As Annie, Katherine Martin is given surprisingly little to do, but she makes the most of the show’s most underwritten character and turns in a fun performance. Just really good work from everyone.
If I have any real gripes, it would be a few nitpicks with the script itself. While writer Mat Smart has provided a humorous and heartfelt love letter to the lost art of writing love letters, he has made a few odd choices, and there are some creative touches that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. For example, there is a plot twist early on that adds a whimsical bit of fantasy that serves the plot well for a while, but the heightened reality seems a bit artificial when it features in a tragic moment late in the story. And although the Jessica character does provide, in passing, some background information on Annie, both she and William seem to be there only to provide comic relief and pad the running time.
But whatever problems the script has, they are more than made up for by strong direction from Gil Reyes. He keeps the action moving and the emotions flowing. If there is ever a moment that rings false, he and his expert cast make you forget it almost immediately.
This really is a lovely production, and I can’t wait to see more from this troupe. My final recommendation: if you see it, bring a date!
The 13TH of Paris
Featuring Kate Bringardner, Tamara Dearing, Cory Hardin, Ryan Lash, Katherine Martin, and Neil Mulac.
June 20, 21, 23, 27, 28, 2014 @ 8:00pm
At The MeX
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202