COLETTE COLLAGE, Porchlight Theatre, at the Athenaeum Theatre. A collage is nice on paper, but onstage it’s often a poor substitute for a compelling story or well-structured musical revue. Unless every moment in the piece is visually and aurally compelling enough to stand on its own, a theatrical collage feels fat, flat, and slow.

That’s what happens to Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s musical portrait of French author Collette, though the show does have some marvelous scenes and songs. Jones and Schmidt are especially good at torchy tunes exploring the dark double binds of love, and director Ann Filmer has packed her production with bright, energetic actors, most of whom have the pipes to make the music soar. Suzanne M. Genz is particularly affecting as Colette, and especially good at playing the notorious coquette in middle age, when she felt her physical charms beginning to fade.

But then everyone in Filmer’s cast proves adept at exploring the play’s deeper tones. Which makes it all the more frustrating when Jones and Schmidt succumb to the concept of a collage and fail to build on what they’ve already created. How much more powerful this play would have been if they’d chosen–as Colette did in her novels–to focus on just one phase in their protagonist’s life. Or at least had found a way to frame their story. –Jack Helbig