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Archive for August 2010

Mauckingbird’s “Dream”

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file0580Midsummer Night’s Dream
Mauckingbird Theatre Company
Aug. 20-Sept. 12, 2010
Randall Theater at Temple University

Mauckingbird Theatre Company views the classics through “a queer lens,” says co-founder and artistic director Peter Reynolds, who is (among other titles) also assistant chair of Temple’s theatre department. Mauckingbird, usually at the Adrienne, has new endeavors underway at Temple, including Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Temple professor Lynne Innerst joins Reynolds as co-director. One pleasure of this large scale but intimate production is casting Temple students as the mechanicals and fairies. Danielle Pinnock has a key role as Nick Bottom and Pyramis in the play within the play.

The staging also benefits from Mike Long’s video design and Chris Colucci’s invigorating sound track. The story’s been updated to Athens Academy where everyone’s texting. The Duke about to get married is a headmaster; a patron wants his daughter Hermia to marry Demetrius. But Hermia has eyes only for Lysander, who in this production is a girl. And unlike the original, Helena, is a boy, which at first is unsettling. However, actor Patrick Joyce does so well with the role he overcomes even the confusing name. Times have changed! Mauckingbird’s mission with a few surgical incisions to the script makes it easy to see Shakespeare’s jousting love struck couples in the magic forest as two girls and two guys together and why not.

The play runs without intermission.

Unfortunately, the fairy queen and king are not so well matched as their attractive statures. Charles Illingworth’s Oberon exudes authority and compassion. Not so, Sean Thompson’s Titania who starts with a snippy attitude that ultimately undercuts the persuasion (and magic) of his better lines during Titania’s extraordinary dream scene with Bottom.

Pinnock’s Bottom overplays the comedy; the girl has promise; we’ll be seeing her again. She lights the black box.
Shakespeare’s Dream foreshadows The Tempest. He’s juggling imagination, the highs and lows of love, life, art. Bravo to Emily Letts and Erin Mulgrew; Brent Knobloch who plays Puck. Lauren Perigard’s costumes enhance the nonsense.


Written by Lesley Valdes

August 30, 2010 at 3:06 am

Henry V on Sansom Street

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Henry The Fifth
Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre
Classical Academy
August 4-15, 2010

The English are better at their history than we are. They have Shakespeare to thank for making leaders human. If you have trouble keeping the Henry Plays Straight, you may want to try Henry Fifth at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre through Sunday. The Classical Academy run by the Theatre is doing a nice job with a complicated play. The academy is summer session for emerging theatre professionals. The performances at 21st and Sansom are free; best to call ahead for tickets or email.

Director Aaron Cromie uses the conceit of a classroom and it works. A teacher takes the role of Chorus. Fazeeh Fazeehpour’s simple classroom design becomes tavern, battlefield, and court. It is hard to keep the nine actors straight, in their school uniforms and backpacks since most of the cast takes multiple characters.

Fortunately Michael Gregory takes only the role of King Harry, or Henry the Fifth, who learns to battle royal insults from France before his ultimate great victory at Agincourt.

Gregory, who trained at the Hartt School, in Hartford, brings many colors to the role, he is at his strongest showing the pulls upon the crown; the qualms that rarely mean a good night’s sleep in a soliloquy that’s quite persuasive.
Nick Martorelli functions as the chorus.

Victoria Bonito is an engaging Lord Exeter, amusing Lady Katherine’s maid. Bethany Ditnes distinguishes her roles as Katherine and Montjoy. Amanda Bernhardt, Meredith Mitchell, Eric Wunsch, B.K Elam, Shaun Fury, complete assignments both serious and comic.

The confusions as to whom plays whom will not be unraveled until the conclusion of the second half but the Classical Acting Academy’s delivery of Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter is well done. Henry V on Sansom Street is not as much theater to watch as theater to listen to. Bravo to text coaches J. J. Van Name and John Peakes; bravo Aaron Cromie. The spoken lines are not self-conscious but they don’t lose the poetry or the music.

Written by Lesley Valdes

August 9, 2010 at 3:07 am

Tolomeo at Glimmerglass

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By George Frideric Handel
Glimmerglass Opera
Cooperstown, NY

Friends are driving to Saratoga and Cooperstown. I’m envious. I’ve seen two of the four new productions in Glimmerglass Opera’s repertory this summer and I’m ready to see Handel’s Tolemeo again. If you can manage it, don’t miss the Handel opera
which is being staged only 1 hour 40 minutes west of the Philadelphia Orchestra performances at SPAC. This is the first professional production in the U.S. and it’s winsome: singers, staging, orchestra.

Countertenor Anthony Roth- Costanzo takes the lead: He’s the son of Cleopatra III. A family conspiracy has deprived Tolomeo of his right to the throne and he’s also in danger of losing his beloved wife, Seleuce. He’s that rare breed a one-woman man.
Donald Eastman’s nonlinear staging supports the sense and nonsense of Chas Rader -Sheiber’s witty direction.

Young Scots Christian Curnyn leads a modern band that incorporates baroque continuo. Michael Leopold’s theorobo pokes its long neck up from the pit like a periscope. Leopold also plays baroque arch lute and there are the pleasures of Ruth Berry’s baroque cello and David Moody’s harpsichord.

Tolomeo and his Seleuce are exiled from Egypt to Cyprus where neither can find either other. They’re pursued by nasty royal siblings: Steven LaBrie as skulky King Araspe, Julie Boulianne as the virtuoso Queen in wily boots. Boulianne has a coloratura like a tarantula’s. It is that GOOD. Joelle Harvey plays the beautiful Seleuce and the voice floats.

Tolomeo is a comic and convoluted love story made poignant because of Handel’s da capo arias. There is no chorus. Roth- Costanzo beguiles as the steadfast husband.

The faux baroque production beguiles with its own swerves and surprises. A lovely moment: when Seleuce sings of gentle breezes wafting thoughts to her missing husband the soprano switches on series of electric fans.

There are others: The use of supernumeraries, stooped, as valets for King and Queen, as prep school boy assistants for Alessandro Tolomeo’s rival brother. (Mezzo-soprano Karin Mushegin tales the trousers role of Allesandro.)

Tolomeo’s final performance is August. 23. Also in repertory at Glimmerglass Opera: Tosca, Marriage of Figaro and Tender Land.

Written by Lesley Valdes

August 6, 2010 at 4:30 am