Wednesday, August 12, 2009

2009 Shaw Festival Reviews

2009 Shaw Festival Season Reviews
By David Grapes

Productions are listed in order of preference


Devil’s Disciple (Festival)
• Straightforward and uncomplicated direction by my least favorite Shaw director Tadeusz Bradecki
• Strong cast lead by Evan Buliung, Peter Krantz and Fiona Byrne carried this uneven production
• Ensemble acting work was weak among the soldiers
• The set - when open to the gallows worked very well but I found the look of it really ugly and flat when the interior scene drops were placed in front of it
• Needed more cast members to populate the world of the play
• Shaw’s wit at its sharpest. The play raises lots of fascinating questions
• I thought the breaking of the fourth wall for direct address monologues was intrusive and that the additional references to Niagara on the Lake added nothing to our enjoyment of this great play
• Jim Mezon came in as Gentleman Johnny near the end of the play and stole every moment that he was on stage with his impeccable comic timing and wry smile. Shaw gives him many of the funniest lines in the play and Mezon lades every joke without ever breaking a sweat.

Star Chamber (Royal George)
• Coward’s rarely performed comic gem about actors and their egos
• Eccentric characters played to the comic hilt
• Great physical business
• Wonderful comic spark and energy from everyone in the cast
• Simple but effective set with costumes that exploded with character and style
• Funny and very accessible

Brief Encounters (Festival)
• Three Noel Coward one acts (Still Life, We were Dancing, Hands Across the Sea)
• Still Life – well acted, nice control of time, wonderful atmospheric setting, nice sound and lighting design, excellent performance by Deborah Hay, solid direction, stunning train image at the end of the piece
• We Were Dancing – lots of humor, nice supporting performances by Thom Marriott and Goldie Semple, exquisite costumes, captured Coward’s style, energy and wit
• Hand Across the Sea – Some wonderful physical farce, nicely paced, big characters who were well acted and remained truthful, a fun way to end the evening

A Moon for the Misbegotten (Court House)
• A tour de force acting vehicle for Shaw veteran Jim Mezon, who plays Phil Hogan. His scenes are worth the price of admission. Every young aspiring actor should be made to watch his drunk scene. He brings power, humor and pathos to every scene.
• The set and lights really established the harsh environment of the world in which the characters live and suffer
• Jenny Young makes a valiant effort to capture the soul of Josie Hogan but she is just too frail and too attractive to be a “cow of a woman” that O’Neil intends. The role belongs in the hands of Kelli Fox or Cherry Jones, who are both more physically suited to the demands placed on the character by the playwright.
• David Jensen is also miscast as James. He is too soft and does not have enough rough edges or masculine charm to make this role his own.
• Still, despite the odd casting I enjoyed seeing this piece performed at Shaw. It was a good production of a great play

Born Yesterday (Festival)
• A strong production of a seldom produced American classic
• Nice original music score that added to the spirit and style of the production
• Good use of comic business
• Play was well anchored by Thom Marriott and Deborah Hay who share a nice chemistry on stage
• Strong acting work from the ensemble cast
• I thought the costumes were ugly and unflattering and the scenery too mundane
• Pace was slow in a number of places (ie the gin game)
• Patrick Galligan was effective as the play’s troubled lawyer
• Interesting choice of play in light of the past decades political scandals

In Good King Charles’s Golden Days (Royal George)
Sunday in the Park With George (Royal George)

Ways of the Heart (Court House)
Play Orchestra Play (Royal George)

Albertine in Five Times (Court House)
The Entertainer (Studio)

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