Review: Passion (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre)

| March 29, 2014
Dani Smith stars as Fosca in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "Passion" by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, directed by Fred Anzevino. (photo credit: Adam Venness)        

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim 
Book by James Lapine 
Directed by Fred Anzevino
at No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood (map)
thru April 27  |  tickets: $34-$39   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review


A lush exploration of raw, intimate Sondheim


Peter Oyloe and Danni Smith in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "Passion" by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, directed by Fred Anzevino. (photo credit: Adam Venness)

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre presents

Review by Oliver Sava 

Focusing on a singular love triangle, Passion is one of Stephen Sondheim’s most intimate, concentrated musicals, a lush exploration of one man’s crumbling resolve when he finds himself trapped between two adamant female lovers. That smaller scale makes it the perfect show for Theo Ubique, and their tight No Exit Café space puts the audience right in the middle of all the action, giving an up-close look at all the heightened emotion of the piece.

Peter Oyloe and Collette Todd in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "Passion" by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, directed by Fred Anzevino. (photo credit: Adam Venness)Based on Ettore Scola’s 1981 film “Passione d’Amore” (itself an adaptation of the 1869 novel “Fosca” by Iginio Ugo Tarchetti), Passion follows a soldier in 19th century Italy who leaves his lover behind and becomes the object of affection for an ailing, unattractive woman. Fosca’s (Danni Smith) all-consuming, obsessive love is something Giorgio (Peter Oyloe) has never witnessed before, and her pitiable desperation ultimately has a strange magnetism that pulls the man closer. Giorgio may be the central figure, but Fosca is the heart and soul of Passion, and Smith gives an exquisite performance of a woman broken by time who finds strength in love. (If this theater season has shown anything, it’s shown that Stephen Sondheim has written the best female characters in all of musical theater.)

It’s fitting that Fosca would blossom during the “Garden Sequence,” when she goes for a walk with Giorgio and first proclaims her fondness for him with music that overwhelms her with excitement. Fosca is weak, both in body and in mind, and it’s easy for her to be carried away. Smith’s portrayal captures that delicacy, but also the armor Fosca has put up to prevent herself from being hurt like in the past as well as the thrill she feels when she drops that shield and lets her fragile self get swept away by love. Smith’s rich vocals are brimming with feeling, especially the cavernous lower register that sends chills down the spine during her ballad “I Wish I Could Forget You.”

Smoothly staged by Theo Ubique artistic director Fred Anzevino, the production makes the room feel bigger than it is by taking advantage of all the café real estate. (One quibble with the direction: an important moment at the end of the play is blocked on a platform that obscures the action for a good portion of the audience.) Kory Danielson’s tight musical direction is clear in the sharp diction and controlled dynamics of the ensemble, and Danielson leads a four-piece orchestra that balances wonderfully with the performers. Adam Veness’s sleek set contains hidden surprises that allow it to transform for specific locations, and the black marble paint job makes the stage look expensive while creating a dark, chilly environment for the actors.  

Sean Knight, Anthony Apodaca, Christopher Logan,  Ryan Armstrong and Peter Oyloe in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "Passion" by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, directed by Fred Anzevino. (photo credit: Adam Venness)

The cold stage heats up in the opening moments when Clara (Collette Todd) opens her mouth and fills the room with warm, sumptuous sound, singing lyrics about a moment of happiness and making the audience feel her bliss with angelic music. The married Clara is in bed with her lover Giorgio (Peter Oyloe), and while Oyloe has rousing vocals, he could show more of the uninhibited sentiment that Giorgio is feeling in moments of intimacy. Oyloe is an actor who excels at playing vulnerable characters full of inner turmoil, but he needs to wear more of his heart on his sleeve to match the emotional intensity of his female costars.

Todd and Smith’s performances are breathtaking; Todd in her depiction of Clara’s overwhelming personal satisfaction and Smith in her expression of the selfless compassion Fosca showers on Giorgio. The soldier goes through considerable changes by the end of the play, and deeper emoting from Oyloe would make that transition hit with maximum impact.

Passion is usually performed as one act, but the restaurant aspect of the Theo Ubique experience unfortunately demands an intermission. The production builds up momentum over the course of the first act that it doesn’t quite maintain going into the second, but that’s not so much a problem with the performances as it is the piece. Passion works best without the split because that prevents Fosca and Clara’s manic energy from diffusing during the break, keeping the entire whirlwind romance contained within one block of sweeping music.

Rating: ★★★½

Passion continues through April 27th at No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood (map), with performances Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 7pm.  Tickets are $34-$39 (with a pre-performance 3-course meal served by cast for an extra $25), and are available by phone (800-595-4849) or online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at

Danni Smith and Peter Oyloe in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "Passion" by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, directed by Fred Anzevino. (photo credit: Adam Venness)

Photos by Adam Veness




Danni Smith (Fosca), Peter Oyloe (Giorgio), Collette Todd (Clara), John Leen (Colonel Ricci), Peter Vanvakas (Dr, Tambourri), Sean Knight (Lt. Barri, Ludovic), Anthony Apodaca (Torasso, Fosca’s Father), Christopher Logan (Major Rizzoli, understudy Giorgio), Ryan Armstrong (Lombardi, understudy soldiers), Sarah Larson (Mistress, Ensemble, understudy Clara), Sarah Simmons (Fosca’s mother, ensemble), Thom Britton (understudy Dr. Tambourri).

behind the scenes

Fred Anzevino (director), Kory Danielson (music director), Adam Veness (set design, photos), Brian Hoehne (lighting design), Bill Morey (costume design), Paige Keedy (props design, stage manager), R & D Choreography (violence design), Courtney Crouse (asst. director).

“I Wish I Could Forget You” from Passion

“Happiness” from Passion

“Military Madness” from Passion


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Category: 2014 Reviews, Musical, No Exit Cafe, Oliver Sava, Stephen Sondheim, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, Video, YouTube

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