"Nothing's sexier than obsession," Frank Langella once told me. I think he was talking about Amadeus, but it may have been Dracula. It works for both, and it's the throbbing prime-mover of Passion, the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine 1994 Tony winner about a girl who won't say no.
"Loving you is not a choice," she sings to the object of her affections, "it's who I am."
"Loving You," like "Send In the Clowns," was one of those 11th-hour show-savers that Sondheim threw in to clarify the behavior of a rather complicated heroine. Her name is Fosca, and he found her in "Passione d'amore," a 1981 Italian film by Ettore Scola. She's an unattractive, sickly recluse who takes a shine to Giorgio, a dashing army captain in a remote garrison in 19th-century Italy. Beside the unwavering intensity of her ardor, his beautiful, married mistress back in Milan, Clara, who's not about to leave home and hearth for him, soon fades to black.
In the cast of 12 that director John Doyle rallied for Passion's first New York revival — Off-Broadway at the Classic Stage Company's home, Feb. 8-April 7 — there are only two women: Judy Kuhn as Fosca and Melissa Errico as Clara. Ryan Silverman has the undivided attention of at least one of them.
"I've never come back to a role before," Kuhn confesses, "so it's going to be an interesting journey. There are obviously things that I learned the first time that I want to hang on to, but I want to come to this completely new and start the process over again. John Doyle is a very different director than Eric Schaeffer was. I'm also ten years older, ten years more experienced — hopefully, ten years more skilled and wiser. I can bring a lot of new things to it — things you hadn't noticed before."
She has come back with spyglass in hand. "In some ways, in playing her, you have to be a bit of a detective because there are so many mysteries about her — about what ails her, about the nature of her behavior and what motivates it. I think what's interesting about her is that her impulses and needs and desires are very universal. All of us can recognize ourselves in her. She is desperately isolated and lonely, and I think those are all things that people can really empathize with."