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A CurtainUp DC Review
The plot rambles from short bursts of dialogue concerning politics, religion, torture and truth. Quotations from Lear, Macbeth and so on get folded into Cain’s many skits and disparate dialogue. There are plenty of one-liners (some quite good) about theatre, actors (who are dumb and vain) and Shakespeare’s plots,( body counts at the end of his tragedies, unhappy marriages in his comedies.) Stoppard can pull off such tricks effortlessly; Cain’s are labored and often a little too cute: “Break a pen, Will,” and “He said/she said. Enter/exit. Drums/trumpets. How long can it take? You have one week to ‘dialogue’ this” as Cain’s Cecil, aka the Earl of Salisbury, says to the playwright Shag, aka William Shakespeare.
Christoper Acebo’s set of unadorned horizontal and vertical wood planks and the neat trick that represents the Gunpowder Plot work extremely well as does Christopher Akerlind’s subdued lighting. Deborah M. Dryden’s costumes are lush where warranted, although Cecil’s fur trim cape seems to overwhelm him, possibly intentionally. Andre Pluess’s original music and percussive riffs are excellent.
While the aesthetics of this production pass muster, Bill Rauch’s direction and the performances by his actors (Anthony Heald, Jonathan Haugen, John Tufts, Richard Elmore, and Gregory Linington) are not up to the standards Washington audiences are now accustomed to. Christine Albright as Shag’s daughter Judith is the only cast member not given to shouting her lines. While her fellow cast members give performances that are emotionally shallow, hers is, briefly, affecting (and effective.)
Arena Stage is to be commended for bringing in productions from other venues, particularly from areas of the country outside the Northeast. But given that Oregon Shakespeare's version is so much longer and less enjoyable than the trimmer, better acted version reviewed by Curtainup's editor in New York, perhaps this isn't an ideal import.
Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show
Slings & Arrows-the complete set
You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company