"Last Dance" Slightly Cramped 

As Nijinsky, his reminiscences from the confinement of a mental institution open windows onto some of the greatest stages in Europe. The lone actor, through a series of well-studied characterizations, evokes a range of vibrant personalities (some more attractive than others) who swirl around the great dancer, drawn to his genius and his childlike enthusiasm.

The most potently felt presence on the stage and in Nijinsky's life was Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes and Nijinsky's lover and patron for much of his performing career. Melendez shifts fluidly onstage from Nijinsky's light wildness to Diaghilev's stolid, world-weary persona, showing us with equal compassion the volatile nature of the dancer and the melancholy passion of the patron.

Melendez navigated other sudden shifts equally well, with illuminated face he conjured up Nijinsky's flights of imagination while describing the dancer's perpetual "war with gravity," only to shift suddenly to portraying Tamara Karsavina, Nijinsky's dancing partner, whose more critical gaze undercut the charming fantasy with the flat statement, "Nijinsky felt too much."

Only occasionally did a longing for more dancing and fewer words, especially during Nijinsky's descriptions of rehearsals or actual performances, overwhelm this production. Melendez's charisma, however, and his gradually intensifying portrayal of an unstable genius wending his way to madness more than compensated for both formal and spatial restrictions. S

The Richmond Triangle Players' "Nijinsky's Last Dance" runs at Fielden's Cabaret Theatre through June 25. Tickets are $16-$20. Call 346-8113 or go to www.rtriangle.org.

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