Thursday, April 29, 2010

Millbrook: "Saving Grace"

With a new sound system in place, the Millbrook Community Players are presenting Jack Sharkey's comedy, "Saving Grace", directed by Fred Neighbors, and with a small ensemble cast of veteran actors and a newcomer to the local theatre scene. The small, but appreciative, audience often punctuated the performance with loud laughs stemming from the clever script and the timing of the actors.

The comedy of this script stems from its witty dialogue and characterizations, as well as from conventional mistaken identities brought about by virtually everyone pretending to be what they are not.

Grace Larkin [Ashley Allman] invites her boss Walter Chepple [John Collier] back to her apartment for a late night drink...and she is a nervous wreck; it is her first attempt at romance, and she spouts many cliche-ridden quotations from B-films to which she is addicted. -- He, on the other hand, appears to be an experienced Lothario and invites her to accompany him to a business convention in Hawaii, complete with a special sexy outfit he bought her and which she models for him as a birthday present.

Awkward moments for each of them are interrupted by the arrival of a telephone repairman named Alex [Paul Travitsky] and Grace's sister Harriet [Rae Ann Collier] who is being pursued by her suitor Gregor [Dave Kelsen] a Russian evangelical preacher.

The script contrives to have characters leave the stage at critical moments, only to return to overhear partial conversations that cause them to draw the wrong conclusions, or to find other characters in an assortment of compromising positions...all standard conventions of farcical comedies.

There is a good deal of success in the performances. Most of the clever dialogue is presented by this ensemble with a naturalistic understanding -- a lot of double-entendre -- and spot-on timing, and in Ms. Allman's case, some wonderful facial mugging that clearly indicate her predicaments.

But, plays of this type also require a variety of pace -- some fast and furious, some slowed down in exhaustion -- to highlight the emotional and physical intensity of the script. Some attention to this would benefit the two-hour production.

And there appears to have been some reticence in both physical intimacy and in costuming. Every kiss is either a perfunctory peck or a chaste one when it should be smouldering and lingering, and everyone remains dressed in very demure clothing, especially when wearing underwear and caught in the aforesaid compromising positions. Though a red Union suit may draw a laugh in and of itself, it hardly compromises the characters in question of the assumed dalliance or being caught in the act.

Nonetheless, this production of Saving Grace is a funny entertainment that provides audiences with an old-fashioned laugh-out-loud night at the theatre.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

ASF: "All's Well That Ends Well"

Why aren't there more high caliber productions of one of Shakespeare's most modern-feeling "problem plays" like the one now playing at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival? The all-too-small audience at Sunday's opening performance of "All's Well That Ends Well" was treated to a funny and thoughtful examination of love, sex, and marriage set amidst the class consciousness and intrigues of Renaissance England that, after 400+ years, reflect many of today's social concerns.

Much of the "problem" [some might say a "strength" that makes it modern and intriguing] is that it is hard to pin it down. Is the play a comedy, a romance, a fantasy, a serious drama...?...Well, yes...and no. There are clowns and young lovers, a bit of mystery and seeming magic, generation gaps, a war, sexual frankness, some reprehensible behavior that beggars forgiveness, trickery, class & cultural snobbery, and an "end justifies the means" philosophy by both old and young that can be found on many prime-time & reality television shows, and which is reported on the daily news. In short, the play mirors life's contradictions.

Geoffrey Sherman's able ensemble deftly manipulates the audience's shifting allegiances because we understand and identify with their contradictory natures, their familiar behavior, and the intrigues that follow. The duplicity found in many characters, the notion that privilege makes for different rules, and a suggestion that youth should be readily forgiven for acting rashly are played out for us in the two and a half hour performance...and we take sides -- and change sides -- frequently.

Act I serves as an elaborate exposition, delineating plots and subplots to unravel later on. The Countess of Roussillion [Carole Monferdini] has taken the orphaned Helena [Kelley Curran] under her protection, and treats her with motherly affection. Helena secretly loves the Countess's son Bertram [Jordan Coughtry], though he is of superior rank and class. When Helena cures the King of France [Rodney Clark] from a life-threatening malady, he grants her the pick of the French lords as a husband. When she chooses Bertram and he vehemently and contemptuously objects to her social rank, the King demands an immediate wedding ceremony, after which Bertram sneaks away to the war with his cowardly and two-faced friend Parolles [Matt D'Amico] before consummating the marriage, and sets down impossible terms that must be met before he will accept Helena as his true wife: she must get him to willingly give up a precious family ring to her, and she must be pregnant by him -- two things he swears he will never do.

Into this mix come three characters familiar to generations of theatregoers. Lavatch [Anthony Cochrane] is the court fool in the retinue of the Countess. Complete with fools-cap and patchwork costume, he has the license to speak freely, even to his betters -- and his commentaries on other characters' behavior demonstrates his penetrating wit. Mr. Cochrane plays him with Scottish gusto -- sometimes impish, and always insightful. Through him, we learn a lot. -- A counterpart is Lafew [Paul Hopper], who is played as a more genteel and graceful version of the fool who delights in aggravating others to distraction.

And then there's Parolles. Mr. D'Amico's pretentious windbag miles gloriosus, a liar and a coward, is instantly someone we love to hate, and whose unmasking is gleefully anticipated both by other characters and the audience.

But these characters are no mere distraction; they are integral to the plot and to understanding the play's themes. Mr. D'Amico's debate with Ms. Curran's Helena on the subject of virginity & marriage helps to paint her as an intelligent and independent woman, and an equal match for any man regardless of social rank. The fact that Parolles and Bertram have been friends and companions for some time suggests that their parallel behavior -- especially when attempting to save face by inventing elaborate lies to avoid responsibility and explain away their bad behavior -- might be something each learned from the other.

Yet, we are made to puzzle out the implication that punishment is right for some but not for others, that rank and privilege allows the upper class to get away with most anything, while their social inferiors are abused for the same offenses...just like today.

What follows in Act II somehow resolves many of the problems, but leaves some unanswered. There is a conventional "happy ending with a marriage", but this is managed by a number of tricks, traps, and deceptions. Having spread a rumor that she is dead, Helena disguises herself as a holy pilgrim and enlists the Widow Capilet [Celia Howard] and her daughter Diana [Lauren Sowa] to help her fulfill Bertram's demands -- the ring and her pregnancy -- by deliberately having Diana seduce him and then switch places with her under cover of darkness. In this regard, her duplicity is similar to the men' her mind, the end does justify the means.

The seduction scene is played as a clever battle of the sexes, with the woman clearly in charge. Ms. Sowa teases and Mr. Coughtry complies, looking ever so adolescently foolish in his yearnings. When his demands are proclaimed in public, there is nothing for him but to capitulate in dismay and discomfort; and though his reclamation to the proper and the good is abrupt, one can not help but believe that his protestations of loving Helena and becoming a model husband are prompted more to save his life than to declare an honest affection for her.

Each character in this production speaks Shakespeare's words clearly -- a trademark of this season, and a distinct credit to the company. The words and actions in "All's Well That Ends Well" provoke us to consider our own attitudes, our moral assertions, and our ability to laugh at the uncertainties of our lives.

Red Door: "Conecuh People"

Once more, the Red Door Theatre in Union Springs is presenting "Conecuh People" by Ty Adams and directed this year by Randy Thornton. Based on Wade Hall's book, the story looks back at the Hall family of the 1940s and 1950s, and evokes a past-time with pleasant nostalgic reminiscences.

The story is narrated by Tyson Hall in the role of Wade Hall, Jr. His naturalistic mannersims, pleasant singing voice, and comfort in the role immediately get audience interest and engagement as he introduces a host of family, neighbors, teachers, and assorted Bullock County citizens whose advice and example molded him from childhood and led him ultimately to "find my place in the world."

Thereafter, the play is little more than a series of monologues and brief scenes, interspersed with folk songs and church hymns, that trace his journey of self-discovery leading him to admit that like all of us he is influenced by people who might otherwise go unnoticed by society.

At two-hours and forty-five-minutes, this gentle story takes far too long to tell, partly due to all-too-frequent "dead" moments when nothing is happening on stage, and partly due to the deliberately slow pace that gives the same weight of importance to every character, no matter how minor an influence on Wade, Jr. Even the songs are slow and ponderous.

The language is often poetic, reflecting the original book's haunting descriptions, but much of this cries out for lively delivery and energetic movement which, when it does occur in this production, is a most welcome change.

Kim Graham as Wade's math teacher Estelle Cope Campbell, and Janet Wilkerson as the snuff-dipping Elma Lee Hall, bring such energy to their roles. Though Ms. Wilkerson's indulgently long monologue is in need of judicious editing, both these women enliven the action.

Anne Brabham plays Aunt Emma's generosity in caring for Wade with appropriate gentility; Betty Hubbard's depiction of "Mama" when she is forced to leave her grandson is one of the most touching moments in the play.

Peggy Windham as Wade's mother, "Babe", is thoroughly committed in her role, but the interpretation is so much at odds with the text's description of Babe's intelligence and passion, that to see her as a dazed and bewildered simpleton is jarring.

Hats off to Aleta Davis, a gifted singer and actor, for providing the most truthful character and the most credible characterization in this version of "Conecuh People". As Verse Lee Johnson Manley, the Black woman who raised Wade, giving her every right to call him "my baby", Ms. Davis plays every moment as if it was happening for the first time. -- She trusts in her baby's ability to help her "get a birthday and an age" without the benefit of a birth certificate; when they succeed and Verse Lee "becomes a person" at last, her joy electrifies.

"Conecuh People" has had a number of incarnations for some years, each one with a distinct interpretation. As a work-in-progress, it might be a good idea to take a few years off from performing it to incubate a new version.

Monday, April 19, 2010

ASF: "Hamlet"

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is marketing this year's repertory as "A Season of Intrigue", and with the opening this weekend of "Hamlet", they are off to a good start. -- One of the staples of William Shakespeare's canon, the play abounds in intrigue both public and personal that, under Geoffrey Sherman's capable direction, makes this English Renaissance play accessible for contemporary audiences.

Chief among the ASF production's many qualities are its clarity and directness. Although some purists might complain of cutting it in principle, careful editing of the long script has honed the dense material into a two-hour and forty minute presentation that moves the action forward so that audiences are engaged in every moment -- a spare production that retains the essentials and focuses on the contradictions and complexities of human nature and of people's uncertain and unpredictable behavior.

As composer James Conely's military trumpets echo from around the house and soldiers are revealed on the parapet of Peter Hicks's grey framework castle, they are visited by the Ghost of the recently dead King, and it becomes increasingly clear that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark", setting up the intrigues that follow.

A revenge play similar to others of the Elizabethan & Jacobean periods sets the young Prince Hamlet [Nathan Hosner], along with his best friend and confidant Horatio [Matt D'Amico] the task of avenging his father's "most foul...murder" at the hands of his uncle Claudius [Anthony Cochrane], who has usurped both the throne and the widowed Queen Gertrude [Greta Lambert], whom he married right after the funeral of his brother, thus securing for himself the powers of state.

Obvious from his first appearance on stage that Hamlet despises his uncle, and coupled with the disturbing ghostly apparition's charge for revenge and Hamlet's resulting "antic disposition" [whether feigned or actual madness] and Polonius's [Rodney Clark] determined belief that Hamlet suffers from lovesickness for his daughter Ophelia [Kelley Curran], a number of intrigues are set in motion: secrecy, spying, eavesdropping, and prospects of iminent war between Denmark and Norway make complexity and confusion interfere with Hamlet's fulfilling his father's command while sustaining our interest.

Much attention has been paid to respecting Shakespeare's words in this "Hamlet". Without fail, the language is spoken by this company of actors with a clarity of diction that is rare, and with an comfort that makes the Bard's poetry credible in their mouths. When we hear the words clearly, the story and the characters [no matter how complex] deserve our attention and garner our respect. That being said, there are a couple of jarring notes in the sounds of voices: Mr. Cochrane's British accent is at odds with the American accents of the rest of the cast, and giving the Gravedigger [Paul Hopper] a Southern accent gets a couple of laughs but draws attention away from the content of the lines.

Performances in the featured roles are consistently first-rate, and Sherman grants to each his or her moment(s) to dominate the proceedings. As Rosencrantz and Guildenstern -- Hamlet's university friends, and Claudius's spies -- Jordan Coughtry and Michael Pesoli have a depth that isn't often seen; their nervousness and anxiety at being caught out by Hamlet in their deception are credibly humorous.

Mr. Clark's Polonius, a dignified and often bewildered chancellor, gives a solid display of advice to his son Laertes [Matthew Baldiga], and is continually caught off-guard by the intrigues of Hamlet and other members of the royal family. Mr. Cochrane and Ms. Lambert as the king and queen, in love at the beginning of the play, become more distant from each other as he is caught up in preserving his authority and she faces the truth of their relationship; his attempt at prayer and acceptance of his inability to repent of murdering his brother shows a humanly conflicted individual, and her account of Ophelia's death is a model of controlled passion and grief.

As the obedient daughter Ophelia, Ms. Curran displays her reluctance to be used as a pawn to entrap Hamlet & her real affection for him is crushed by his strange behavior; her later mad scenes are magical theatre moments in this show. Ricardo Vazquez delivers the First Player's speech in preparation of the play that will "catch the conscience of the king" in effectively naturalistic ways that reinforce Hamlet's advice to the players on acting styles.

When Laertes returns to avenge the death of Polonius, Mr. Baldiga burns with a fire that wants to burst out in contrast to Hamlet's indecisive behavior, and prepares us for their climactic fight. -- The action of the play builds so much to this fight, that one expects an extraordinary display of swordsmanship, a quickness full of risk and danger, one that makes us gasp in fear and admiration. Unfortunately, the fight in this production has none of those elements. Rather, it is slow, with moves that are all too clearly plotted out, so the tension just simply isn't there.

Nonetheless, most of our attention has been on Hamlet all the while, and Mr. Hosner gives a performance that is detailed and complex. As his Hamlet is effected by the cumulative events, and the opposition to his revenge [not the least is his own lack of action] builds from scene to scene, he fluctuates from anger to bewilderment to aggressiveness to irony to devious tactics to introspection, and takes us on this internal journey with him. Hosner's ability to speak the verse and communicate its various & simultaneous poetic meanings shows a master actor achieving a thoroughly believable character with all his contradictions. His delivery of the famous soliloquies -- "To be or not to be...", "Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I...", among them -- are among the best renditions one can expect.

And his final scene with Horatio -- the ever-patient and supportive friend in the person of Mr. D'Amico here demonstrating the damage done by all the intrigues and his quiet acceptance of the death of a friend whose tale he has to tell the world -- is a painful reminder that greed and self-interest produce wounds that do not heal easily.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Auburn: "Scapin"

Director Chris Qualls has brought the Telfair Peet Theatre at Auburn University a two-act laugh riot in Bill Irwin & Mark O'Donnell's "freely adapted" version of Moliere's "Scapin" -- and Qualls and his energetic ensemble have brought a lot of their own inventiveness to bear.

The script is true to Moliere's comic intentions, and utilizes assorted conventions and character-types of the commedia dell'arte: lots of slapstick, prattfalls, broad gestures, brightly colored costumes, a fast pace & heightened energy, vocal & physical gymnastics, instantly recognizable characters (blustering parents, rebellious children, wily servants among them) fill the stage from start to finish, and are given significant variety through the discipline of the actors and improvizational techniques that keep everything fresh. -- Mr. Qualls and his able cast successfully capitalize on all of them.

An often put-upon servant, Scapin [Payne Hopton-Jones, whose focus and energy improved after a tentative start], is conscripted by both his own master's son and a neighbor's son to convince the parents to approve of their sons' marriages -- and to pay for them. With the help of another servant, Sylvestre [Emily Stephens effortlessly follows Scapin's ever-changing plot scenarios], these machinations grow more complicated and require adjustments at every turn.

Huge demands are made of all the actors; they must be in good shape in order to sustain the frenetic pace and continuous tumbling they are called upon to do. These actors show no signs of either effort or exhaustion -- all seems to flow so very easily, whether a traditional leap-frog that later becomes a series of leaps while standing fully upright, or bouncing to wondrous heights, or bending their bodies into pretzel shapes or gravity-defying postures...all the while speaking animatedly and rapidly at full volume without gasping for breath.

The actors are individually consistent in their roles, yet there are frequent surprises that regularly hit their comic marks: Tyler Baxter as Octave is a bundle of bubbly energy reminiscent of Richard Simmons, with an effervescent face to match the silliness in the role; he is matched by Kristin Hopkins as Hyacinth, a vision in pink whose comic timing of switching energy is admirable. Leander, as played by Chase Cox, is a cowering sort who can twist his body into almost cartoon-like positions; his love interest is Zerbinette [Taylor Galvin], an archly defiant and outspoken woman whose deep laugh and aggressive manner make her one to contend with. The gifted Kat Grilli plays Octave's father Argante with such vocal power and ease as the standout actor of the spoken word. And Leander's father Geronte is played deftly by Eli Jolley, whose Monty Pythonesque "Ministry of Silly Walks" almost steals the show.

There are some hidden treasures in this production, not the least of which is an understated musician, Lloyd, played by Phillip Beard; his eccentric guitar playing and sound effects punctuate the scenes, often at unexpected times. -- And frequent anachronistic references to contemporary music, television shows, Sarah Palin, and popular films garner rapturous applause.

Replete with audience involvement, mistaken identities, revelations of true identities, confusion verging on chaos, and a wild chase scene near the finale, the comic happy ending comes at last. In just short of two hours, this laugh-out-loud romp leaves audiences aching with laughter. Wow!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wetumpka Depot: "Rumbling Waters"

The Wetumpka Depot Players continue their committment to serving the community with a charming production of "Rumbling Waters", a one-act history-drama designed to teach Alabama History -- more specifically, Elmore County & Wetumpka history -- to 4th graders.

Written and directed by Sherida Black, who gave a pre-show talk and introduced the woman who inspired her story, this 55-minute play contains a lot of concrete historical details [floods, fires, earthquakes, and other events are accurately referenced to actual families and individual historical figures, bridges, highways, and churches]. -- But this is more than a dry history lesson.

Set in flash-back to 1936, and narrated by Bertha [Teri Thompson] recounting her own family's history and the lessons she learned as a child about family, table manners, recognizing the good in people, folk stories, tolerance of differences among us, and recognition that the eccentricities we all have make indellible marks on us all.

In the opening classroom scene, what might be otherwise a dreary recitation of historical minutiae is made more palatable by inventive methods of teaching and learning: a competition between the boys and girls teams, and a simple song that teaches the Native American origin of the name Wetumpka [We-wa-tum-caw], target the 4th grade audience, and instruct adults as well.

Then come a series of scenes in which Bertha's childhood memories come to life. Bertha's Mama [Cheryl Jones] and Papa [Steve Phillips] have a brood of some 13 children, a snuff-dipping Black neighbor, Aunt Lula [Tunisia Thomas]. whose straightforward philosophy provides a solidity for the community, and a visiting Giant named Joe [Ryan Locklar] whose imposing presence frightens Young Bertha [Ellie Kate King], though his gentleness and compassion convert the little girl to his side.

Through Bertha's reminiscences, we are gently taught not only the details of history, but to be proud of our heritage. After all, quality is not determined by social status. -- These are all valuable lessons that ought to be shared. This production of "Rumbling Waters" -- if marketed well -- should receive the backing of Arts Councils and the community.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

ASF: "The Fall of the House"

Another Southern Writers' Project World Premiere opened this weekend in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's Octagon Theatre. "The Fall of the House", a haunting two act dreamscape by Robert Ford, links the past and the present and analyzes the consequences of our choices.

An often puzzling script that nonetheless intrigues audiences, "The Fall of the House" is fortunate in its sheer literacy and its extraordinary performances, and anyone who is fascinated with figuring out a mystery is bound to get involved in its intricate plot.

Alternating between two time periods -- the 19th Century and the present day -- the action begins with the mysterious end of the life of celebrated and obsessive American poet, Edgar Allan Poe [Gerritt VanderMeer], when he is met a few days before his death by an enigmatic former slave woman named Maddy [Erika LaVonn] who has a message for him and wants some answers from him.

Before any answers are provided, the scene switches to a present day courtroom interrogation of Janice Berry [Angela K. Thomas] an up-and-coming Black architect whose strangely designed house was destroyed, with tragic results for its inhabitants.

How these two stories are interwtined, as scenes shift between time periods, is the crux of the matter -- and a device reminiscent of Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia" that was performed at ASF some seasons back. But, rather than tracing the genetic history of the play's central characters [and spoiling much of the mystery], there are other things to consider in this tantalizing play.

Ford's themes are significant, ranging from a consideration of the nature of art, to racial stereotyping, to the power of memory, to the role of the writer, to the nature of love & beauty & dreams & madness, and to the value of endurance. So, audiences are made to think their way through the labyrinth as they are guided by the script and the performances.

Director Nancy Rominger balances Ford's script's two linguistic styles as she challenges her able ensemble cast to articulate the rhythms of both 19th Century polite speech and contemporary naturalistic diction. The sounds are distinct in every scene, and lend credibility to Elizabeth Novak's understated & authentic costumes and Bill DePaola's evocative screen projections that support the time-frames.

Other than the roles of Maddy and Janice, all the actors play mulitple roles and appear in each of the time periods in such rapid succession that one wonders how they managed the changes so quickly -- not as confusing as it sounds due to their precise and distinct impersonations. Mr. VanderMeer's dark and brooding Poe is balanced in the modern scenes by his officious Judge and understanding Social Worker. Margaret Loesser Robinson is a distracted Eliza Poe -- the cast-off wife of the poet's brother David -- and a solidly professional lawyer interrogating Janice. Jonathan C. Kaplan plays Eliza's cheating husband as well as the love-interest of Janice with a dexterity that enlivens each scene. And local student Ta'Myia Narcisse-Cousar as the young Janice and the little girl Linney draws our sympathy despite the fact that many of her lines were too soft spoken.

It is through Maddy and Janice, however, that the play's themes and intentions are most directly communicated. Ms. Thomas plays Janice's conflicts most credibly; whether she is confused by the interrogations and her adherence to the truth, or investigating a new romantic relationship with all its trepidations, or discovering both her true self and the ghosts of the past, she invests all with honest conviction.

Maddy's journey from the past to the present, with subtle transitions of time and behavior and appearance, is mesmerizing from start to finish in the person of Ms. LaVonn...her quiet intensity and enduring stance make for an admirable performance.

The phantoms of the past are always around us, says the playwright. Whether we acknowledge them is up to us.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Faulkner: "Camelot"

Alan Jay Lerner's & Frederick Loewe's celebrated romantic musical "Camelot" has been around since 1960, and shows few signs of its age. Based as it is on one of several versions of the Arthurian legend -- T. H. White's "The Once and Future King" -- the story of the young Arthur's becoming king of England by pulling a sword out from a stone and later creating a fragile Utopian society that he rules from the famous round-table at Camelot is a familiar one...and food for thought today. Life at the top is not necessarily as great as it appears, and there are underlying flaws in such naivete.

The Kennedy administration of the 1960s was nicknamed "Camelot" as it described the young and attractive first family engaged in promoting peace and harmony in the world while managing several crises at home and abroad. Similarly, the Obama White House has a confident and virile young leader matched with a beautiful and socially engaged wife, and grapples with war, health care, education, recession, and party politics.

What a shame the Faulkner University's pretty and musically stunning production only rarely capitalizes on these metaphors, choosing rather to focus on the romantic love-triangle that jeopardizes the fabric of Arthur's kingdom.

This choice does have a number of pay-offs. Loewe's resplendent score is adeptly managed by Marilyn Swears' capable five-piece ensemble, and several memorable songs -- the title song "Camelot" and "How to Handle a Woman" among them -- are delivered by actors whose vocal strengths are aided by their abilities of dramatic interpretation.

As the proudly near-perfect Lancelot, Chase McMichen's lines are frequently hard to hear because of microphone difficulties and a too-fast delivery, but his version of "If Ever I Would Leave You", in which he professes his illicit love for Queen Guenevere [Sophia Priolo, whose unspoken responses speak volumes here, and whose brilliantly clear voice is a major component of the production] provides the most passionate and convincing moment in the play. -- And, Act II's "What Do the Simple Folk Do" sheds fine insight onto Arthur's [Thomas G. Habercorn] and Guenevere's relationship that has been tracked from their awkward and naive first meeting to a now comfortable domesticity.

Yet, "The Lusty Month of May" is reduced to a tepidly innocent evocation of romance, and Mordred's satirical "The Seven Deadly Virtues" seems rushed and keeps Michael Morrow from displaying his considerable talent for playing cleverly sinister roles.

There are greater thematic issues here that go almost unnoticed in an attempt to give equal weight to every major character and scene; this coupled with slow scene changes make for an almost three-hour production from director Jason Clark South.

Merlyn the magician's influence on the young Arthur shows a lot of promise through Chris Kelly's strong presence and fabulous make-up designed by Madison Faile. His charge to Arthur to both "think" and "act" is meant to impact Arthur for life, but when they do emerge later in the play, they are given brief attention and fail to resonate sufficiently for today's audiences.

The script makes frequent references to the meaning of "civilization", and concludes that building rather than destroying, humility rather than pride, and rightness rather than convenience ought to inform a new set of laws that allow justice without revenge; despite the threat of a return to uncivilized ways, there is hope for the future just as long as someone -- this time in the figure of a small boy -- can remember the qualities Arthur strove for and preserve a kind of immortality. -- But, they are glossed over so quickly in the performance that the inherent messages that could challenge the audience to take heed are hard to distinguish.