Two Minutes' Traffic: Bedlam's Saint Joan, Folger Theatre

I make no bones about saying it- Eric Tucker makes the kind of theatre that I like to see.  As a director, his productions have a relentless, joyous mission to remind you that they are theatre, and it's an attitude towards playmaking that I wish more companies embraced. I was lucky enough to see Bedlam's rep of Saint Joan and Hamlet at the Olney Theatre Center a few years back, as well as Tucker's production of Sense and Sensibility last season (which I adored), and it was a pleasure to see Joan at the Folger. 

C. King Photography.

Joan is a play that Bedlam has returned to many times since it was Bedlam's inaugural production in 2012, but each production is unique. In some cases, that's a necessity of staging for a new space--Joan in a black box at Olney is a different experience to Joan in the Folger's lovely Elizabethan theatre, even when both productions share the same vulnerability of placing Shaw's enormous work on the shoulders of just four actors, two tape players, and a handful of props. Luckily, this production is led by the luminous Dria Brown as Joan, and supported with great skill by the trio of Tucker, Edmund Lewis, and Sam Massaro as the remaining 20+ characters. Les Dickert does excellent work lighting the Folger, from the increasing drama of Joan's trial to the tranquility of the epilogue.

Tucker's production takes Shaw's play and makes it fast, nimble, and utterly captivating.  While I'm not sure if every decision necessary to make the play fit four actors works 100% in performance, I can't deny the tremendous appeal his choices have.  When you trust in the power of live theatre and the willingness of an audience to play along, you can create something wonderful. Early in the play, the Archbishop of Rheims discusses the nature of Joan's miracles; he sees little of the supernatural in Joan's accomplishments, but upholds their status as miracles if they confirm people's faith.  Shortly thereafter, Joan's arrival at Orleans seems to bring with it the longed-for change in the wind, and the soldiers see a miracle.  Likewise, we in the audience see a standing electric fan on the side of the stage at the Folger, but when Joan arrives and the wind blows in a new direction, we can't help but feel a frisson of something special.  We know exactly how it happened, but Bedlam's production imbues that one, tiny moment with theatrical magic, and makes us all believers again.


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