Blog Catchup December 2010

ALL MY SONS – Everyman Theatre. 4 stars. Now extended through December 18.
Everyman’s current production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons has broken box office records, and there’s a reason why. Director Vincent Lancisi has given audiences a sensitive, moving production. All My Sons demonstrates the very personal effects of very impersonal war. The stellar cast is lead by Carl Schurr, Deborah Hazlett, and Clinton Brandhagen. Frankly, when Megan Anderson and Bruce Nelson are playing the small roles, you know you’ve got a dynamite group of actors. The intimate theatre also boasts an impressive scenic design by Daniel Ettinger. I know the text quite well, and it was quite a treat to feel the audience react to each moment in the plot. The actors had them in hand every step of the way. I highly recommend you take in this show; you’re not likely to come across a stronger production of this classic American play.

MARY STUART – Washington Shakespeare Company. 3 stars. Through December 12.
Director Colin Hovde has mounted a solid, if occasionally uninspired production of Schiller’s imagined meeting between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scotland. WSC is using the new adaptation by Peter Oswald which made quite a splash recently in London and in a Broadway transfer. Hovde’s staging is often quite impressive. Wooden chairs are tossed around dangerously. They become hallways, prisons, meeting rooms, and trees. The use is extremely effective. The downside is that the scene changes are often more exciting than the scenes themselves. The major problem with this production is that the director and cast seem afraid of overpowering the intimate space at the Artisphere. Everything is downplayed, stakes are far too low, and the arc of the play suffers: I couldn’t tell what the climatic moment was. As a result the play loses much of its power. Sara Barker plays Elizabeth as a careful but charming master of double-talk. Heather Haney’s Mary is sensual and strong. Haney successfully achieves Mary’s regality, but misses out on some of her humanity. We see Mary the manipulator and isn’t until late in the play that she lets us see Mary the woman. But over all this play, which is concerned with political machinations and power plays, works well here in Washington, DC.

SUPERIOR DONUTS – Studio Theatre. 3 stars. Through January 2.
Playwright Tracey Letts tale of an unlikely friendship between a cantankerous white shop owner and an ambitious black teenager is currently playing at Studio Theatre, under the direction of Serge Seiden. The story is one of destruction and despair, but also of hope and redemption. The two leads, Richard Cotovsky as Arthur Przybyszewski and Johnny Ramey as Franco Wicks, are spot on in their portrayals. Like Arthur, I am also cantankerous so I found the ending to be a little too neat. I’m also not sure that Letts’ use of monologuing throughout the script is really necessary.


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