The second show in Season 55 at the Jewel Box Theatre consists of two one acts rather than the usual two-act play. The two shows “The Ugly Duckling” by A. A. Milne and “Sorry, Wrong Number” by Lucille Fletcher. Director, Chuck Tweed uses one cast for both shows giving the audience a nice opportunity to see different facets and talents of actors in in one evening.
“The Ugly Duckling” is a favorite for the general audience not limited to children although the kids love anything Milne. The story is familiar to most as the lovely young princess is not considered beautiful until she meets the love that allows her beauty to shine through.
Paul Smith has a wonderfully unique cadence in his speech, but his deliberate and distinctive delivery does not lend itself to dialogue and, as a result “The Ugly Duckling” comes across as choppy. Jackie Smola as Queen is quite amusing, and the young ladies Allyson Rose as The Princess (wallflower) and Rachael Messer as Dulcibella (the pretty one) are both delightful. Clint Kubat plays the Prince and Tony DeGiusti is Carlo the servant, and those scenes with the royals falling in love with no assistance from their lackeys are rather nice. The Chancellor is played by Vincent Johns, and he is slightly stiff in his portrayal. While ordinarily these scenes should work well, the interchanges between Smith and Johns become uncomfortably due to the erratic pacing. Unfortunately without any flow “The Ugly Duckling” misses the mark by a tail feather.
After intermission Tweed directs “Sorry, Wrong Number” with the same cast. And the whole evening turns around. “Sorry, Wrong Number” is a short thriller about an invalid woman confined to her bed and home alone. While attempting to contact her husband, her call becomes crossed with another and she overhears what she believes must be a murder plot. She can do nothing but attempt to get help for the unknown victim from the telephone company and the police by phone.
Smola portrays the invalid, Mrs. Stevens, realistically and skillfully. Tweed’s direction allows her to build the suspense is this thriller with chilling results. Smith’s delivery is perfect for his role as Sgt. Duffy. Messer as several Information Operators is delightful as she develops several humorous operator characters. Rose is also a Telephone Operator as well as Mrs. Curtis and a Woman and each of her characters is also amusing and fun to watch. Clint Kubat as the Attendant and Tony Degiusti, the man from Western Union are both excellent. Vincent Johns develops George nicely. All of the characters are crucial in developing and maintaining the constant state of suspense that poor Mrs. Stevenson feels as her world begins to fall apart. This cast certainly supports the terror needed. Her movements are stiff in the way of a true invalid and her fear is palpable, permeating the stage with her terror. There are no missing tail feathers here!
A Night of One-Acts continues through October 28, 2012. The Jewel Box Theatre is located at 3700 N. Walker in uptown Oklahoma City. The box office is open Tuesday through Friday afternoons to take reservations at 405-521-1786. Also visit the website: jewelboxtheatre.org. “Sorry, Wrong Number” is definitely worth the visit.
There are a few simple yet uncommon qualities needed to create a masterful production. Shakespeare in the Park is presenting “The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice” directed by D. Lance Marsh. This production has those qualities. W. Jerome Stevenson, born for the role of Othello and Kevin Asselin, born for the role of Iago lead a cast effortlessly in a production as easy to revel in as original Elizabethan patrons.
Sophie Moshofsky as Desdemona is excellent, Mandee Chapman Roach as Emilia is equally skilled. Bryant Belknap as Cassio, Robert Bowman as Roderigo, Richard Rouillard as the Duke of Venice, David Fletcher-Hall as Lodavico and Hal Kohlman as Brabantio are all superb as the create believable and relevant characters in understandable situations. Often, a modern audience is left cold when confronted by Shakespeare, intimidated by the reputed beauty of the language, and confused by medieval English phraseology and attitudes. Under Marsh’s direction these actors bridge the gap without attempting to update the production.
Rachel Spencer as Bianca, Ryan Swartzman as Gratiano, Kody Brown as Hearald also give excellent performances alongside Valerie Sharp, Barrett (Bear) Lile, Dillon Horner, Carissa Carlson, Misael Pando, Chauncey Shillow and Heath Jones, Jr. Whether performing in cameo roles or simply as understudies this cast performs as a Company.
Blind jealousy and prejudice are the main factors of the story as Othello is manipulated into believing his beloved Desdemona is faithless, and the tragedy unfolds through deceit that is only revealed at the end.
Modern viewers can easily see through the manipulations in many of these productions as it is an old story. But in this production, the audience is taken away and can believe as Othello sees, because Stevenson is Othello. Iago is not so transparent that the viewer does not understand the motivations of those who believe his manipulations. This is one of those productions that not only entertain but educate because suddenly the difference between the medieval mind and the modern mind is the difference of only a moment.
Marsh and his cast should be congratulated for this production and devotees of Shakespeare must not miss this “Othello” as those who are not devoted will get hooked. The weather is lovely for most of the performances, the breeze is pleasant and the show is dynamite. The scenery and the mood are wonderful and the costumes by Robert Pittenridge are outstanding. Marsh has excellent instincts in staging and the additional contribution of Kevin Asselin as Fight Choreographer is genuine. Congratulations to Marsh and the fine cast for presenting such a great production for Shakespeare in the Park.
“The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice can be seen at the Water Stage at the Myriad Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City through September 29, 2012. For tickets call 405-235-3700. The box office is open one hour prior to showtimes: 8:00pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings or visit www.oklahomashakespeare.com,
Poteet Theatre presents “To Kill a Mockingbird” the Christopher Sergel adaptation of Harper Lee’s beloved novel of the same name. “To Kill a Mockingbird” details the trial of Tom Robinson, a young black laborer in a small southern town. He has been accused of the rape of a young white woman, and the lawyer chosen to represent him is Atticus Finch. The story is a narration by Scout, the young daughter of Atticus Finch who, along with brother Jem and friend Dill learns first life’s harsh lessons of jealousy, racism and small minded gossips tempered by the exception that Atticus Finch himself represents.
In Sergel’s adaptation the narration is handled by Maudie, a sympathetic character who voices for the child Scout in the book. While the book is beloved by many, the play is a popular and beloved choice for any production company.
Poteet uses Director Michael Payne, whose love of the story is evident in his direction. He begins by creating an outstanding and simple set that functions beautifully as the street of a small Southern town, and then as the courthouse itself for the trial scene.
Many young folks are in the cast lead by Nolia Sweatt as the irrepressible Scout Finch. Aaron Stewart is brother Jem Finch, and these two young actors play their crucial parts quite well. A third child, visiting an aunt is a boy called Dill. Sam Brown as Dill is excellent and has a great future as an actor.
Other notable performances are given by Jean-Marie Otto as Maudie Atkinson, Dana Palmer as Stephanie Crawford and Norma Goff as Calpurnia. The three female characters represent different levels of society who know each other well. David Patterson as Heck Tate, Brian Scott as Tom Robinson, Julie Prock as Mrs. DuBose, Joe Moore as Judge Taylor, T. J. Brown as Bob Ewell, Haley Schafer as Mayella Ewell and Stephen Dillard-Carroll as Reverend Sykes make this production quite memorable.
The important role of Atticus Finch is held by Patrick Melrick. Melrick brings to the role all that a director could ask for in experience, vocal quality and demeanor. However, his performance is completely wooden as if he is completely unaffected by the events. This is also the first live play Melrick has appeared in after a period of 20 years. Perhaps, as he settles into the role, he will allow his emotions to surface enough to portray that calm yet torn father unwilling to compromise his convictions.
. Once Melrick loosens up, “To Kill a Mockingbird” may be well worth seeing, so the last weekend may be the best weekend to reserve tickets for that reason. The rest of the cast is quite good, the set is amazing and, even wooden, and Melrick’s vocal resonance creates good possibilities.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” runs through September 30, 2012 at the Poteet Theatre at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at 222 N.W. 15th Street in Oklahoma City. For ticket information visit www.poteettheatre.com or call 405-609-1023
Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre presents David Mamet’s “November” in September. This comedy takes place in the oval office as an incumbent President wrestles with appalling numbers in the waning days of the campaign. President Charles Smith (Chuck) is also obsessed with establishing a Presidential Library in the interests of posterity. He is also exceedingly interested in leaving the office of the President with a pocketful of pennies times several million dollars. In short, he is the President that exhibits all of the worst characteristics of the self-serving greedy politician. He does so in a beautifully detailed recreation of the oval office. The set is as near to the actual oval office as is humanly possible and has all the little touches that make the office real to viewers.
While the visual parallels are apparent, this is not a partisan play. It is a slap-stick farcical comedy that just happens to take place in the oval office. The characters are rather buffoonish and do not exhibit any trace of the nobility that Presidents should at least feign in order to be elected the first time out.
Director Donald Jordan describes the play as: ‘West Wing meets South Park’ and that is certainly an apt description. The language is salty, unnaturally so as President Smith decides to bribe the Representative of the Turkey industry. In order for the turkeys to receive the annual Presidential Pardon for Thanksgiving, the industry must pay $200 Million Dollars. The premise is completely ridiculous allowing the audience to separate the characters from any persons living or dead. Marcellus Hankins as President Smith creates a selfish one-dimensional man in a suit without a shred of humanity underneath. He is assisted by longtime loyal aide Archer Brown skillfully portrayed by Steve Emerson. The Turkey Guy (third man in a suit) is brought to light by Matthew E. Ellis. The hi-jinx are quite hilarious and the language would make a sailor blush. While many politicians do exhibit these unpleasant traits, they all develop a public façade designed to encourage trust and passion. In this play, that façade is never revealed so no humor can be derived from contrast. The three suits are total buffoons, and they are indeed funny.
Kris Schinske is Clarice Bernstein, Presidential speechwriter and practicing lesbian. Her character does exhibit some redeeming qualities, so that the comedy seems more natural. Dwight Grackle, Chief of the Micmac People is expertly portrayed by Jon Haque in full regalia. Blackmailing President Smith into turning over Nantucket entirely for the purposes of a casino is an objective Haque makes plausible.
The play is not only intended to be non-partisan, it is also intended to be a lighthearted roast of stereotypically corrupt politicos. The timing seems perfect for this production from 2008. “November” in the September before an incumbent President struggles for a second term.
Unexpectedly, the humor is tempered by the reality that, collectively, Americans begin to take the upcoming election seriously at this time of year. This is the time we begin to develop our passion for our potential president, and the one-dimensional representation seems to patriotic Americans more shallow than funny. It is passion that vaults us to the polls and “November” would be hilarious in July or January, but may seem a bit uncomfortable for September for passionately patriotic patrons.
CityRep’s “November” shows at the Civic Center Music Hall in the CitySpace Theatre through September 23, 2012. Performance time is 7:30pm to accommodate parking for patrons. For reservations call 405-848-3761 or visit www.cityrep.com.
“God of Carnage” is an interesting little comedy about two couples meeting to discuss the schoolyard altercation between their two 11-year old sons. Rhonda Clark directs “God of Carnage” at Carpenter Square Theatre through September 29, 2012 with a combination of wit and sensitivity creating a very humorous foundation. Alan and Annette Raleigh, parents of ‘the son wielding the stick’ visit the home of Michael and Veronica Novak the parents of the ‘son without his teeth’ to resolve the altercation. As the evening progresses, the two couples explore a great many additional issues to the primary one at hand. They often shift polarities, with the women pitted against the men in some cases, and the couples pitted against each other. As the evening continues and the rum runs they laugh, cry and argue passionately over the most ridiculous and trivial subjects learning surprising things about each other, themselves and life in general.
Mike Waugh is Michael Novak, a prosperous salesman of household goods. His wife, Veronica Novak is played by Lilli Bassett, a writer and housewife who is studying Africa. Alan Raleigh is Chad Alan Baker and Annette Raleigh is played by Mona Campbell. The four actors have mastered believably long marriages that allow the give and take a realistic sense. The characters are completely natural in mannerisms, affections, affectations and sincerity.
A few difficult feats are played nicely, specifically as Campbell’s character, Annette becomes ill. She manages to do so realistically, with the only give-away is that her face does not actually go green. Her husband, an obnoxious cell phone user and insincere lawyer is well played by Baker as he dominates the entire meeting. A meeting which morphs into a party and the while the two couples are on a slippery slope, the audience is on a roller coaster.
Costumes designed by the Director are appropriate and look comfortable for the actors. The set is very interesting. Caleb Schnackenberg and Rhonda Clark put together a very nice set showcasing Veronica Novak’s interest in Africa. Chad Alan Baker also assisted with properties. Carpenter Square’s Lobby Artist clearly contributed a great deal to the overall ambience of the set, as much of the art work adorning the walls at the home of the Novak’s is an extension of the lobby art by Albert Bostick. The lobby display is very exciting for this show, and certainly helps motivating Bassett’s development of her character.
While the intensity of the story peaks a little soon for easy sustainability, overall these four actors do a fine job of drawing the audience into the situation that is, at one time or another, familiar to most parents. Unfortunately there is no easy resolution in life, or in this story, and we are left wondering if there will ever be an easy answer and knowing there is not.
Kids have a hard time, don’t they? Fortunately they grow out of their worst encounters. Parents remember with a good laugh, and “God of Carnage” reminds them of those moments. We laugh with them because we were right there with them not so long ago. For the younger audience member, well, you’ll see what’s in store for you in a few years!
“God of Carnage” is one of Yasmina Reza’s most interesting plays and a Tony Award winner from 2009 as well as a recipient of the Olivier Award and shows through September 29, 2012 at Carpenter Square’s new location: 800 W. Main in downtown Oklahoma City. For ticket information call 405-232-6500.
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” by John Cameron Mitchell with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask is probably one of the most outrageously offensive pieces of literary material to be performed anywhere. It is also well written and can be staged expertly. It is also true that there is an audience that is not offended by this type of material as well as an audience that secretly enjoys being offended. This is not a show for the youth group at your church, not a show for grandmothers, godparents, parents or discussing by the water cooler when the boss may overhear. This is a show that, if it is performed expertly, is deliciously decadent, decidedly disgusting and delightfully disturbing. This is the show that is being performed through September 8th at the Freede Little Theatre in the Civic Center Music Hall in Oklahoma City. “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is presented by the Oklahoma City Theatre Company and is directed by Christopher Castleberry. This is not the first time “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” has been performed for Oklahoma City audiences and will not be the last time because it is just that good. It is always received with joy for the audience that is tolerant of alternative lifestyles and demanding of excellent performances.
Managing Director Deborah Draheim and Artistic Director Rachel Irick are not afraid to present controversial material, because they have the competence of excellent directors to depend upon. Christopher Castleberry directs this production and he does so with excellence. The set is a great design from Castleberry as well. Scott Hynes is the Lighting Designer, and his designs are executed beautifully by a well-trained crew.
The story line is simple: A rock concert is being given by “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” with the star being Hedwig and band members who consist of ‘The Angry Inch’. Hedwig is most definitely alternative and tells of a life story that is tragic and hopeful yet sunk in the depths of depravity. The music must be up to the level of a professional rock and roll band. Hedwig must have a vocal quality to compete with any lead singer of a successful rock and roll band.
Each band member comes from a different band or solo act currently being performed in the Oklahoma City area, and in this performance, they come together as if they had been playing as a group for years. On drums is Schlatko performed by Jacob Becannen. Timing is crucial for any musical group and Becannen provides the timing with surety and skill. Lead Guitar is Kryzhtoff, performed by Zach Zeller and his talent is evident. Jacek is Jeff Cooper on Bass and Richard York is Skszp on Piano and Guitar. York is the Musical Director for this production and he does an excellent job with this band, a band that stands alone musically.
Then there is the character of Yitzhak, backup singer and ‘husband’ of Hedwig. Renee Anderson plays this part sensitively; moreover, she has a set of pipes that astounds the ear. Her solo is smashing and succulent.
Matthew Alvin Brown a member of Actors’ Equity is downright superb. He has a vocal range which allows subtlety as well as distinction. This is evident in his singing. As an actor, his range is equal and his portrayal of Hedwig, and also Tommy Gnosis is wonderful and wild. At the end of the show the applause is deafening and the audience rocks with empathy.
To reiterate: the material is very ‘bad’ and very, very good. Castleberry has met with the requirement to direct a cast worthy of this subject. They do not merely carry off a good show; they carry away an open minded audience to new heights.
To see this travesty of immorality teaching morality through outstanding entertainment call the Civic Center Box office at 405-297-2264 or visit www.OKCTC.org. Come see the show this next weekend, September 7th and 8th and enjoy.
Over a century ago barbershop quartets became quite popular largely due to the versatility and beauty of the four voices harmonizing. In the middle of the 20th century boy bands became very popular, and the best elements of a male quartet harmony incorporated into those popular groups such as The Ames Brothers, The Four Freshman, The Four Lads and others. “Forever Plaid” now showing at the Pollard Theatre in Guthrie recreates the best elements of the boy band phenomenon with Jake DeTommaso, Clayton Blair, Jared Blount and Doug Rankin. These young men are very talented and harmonize as if they have been together for years. In short, they are pretty. In the same sense that the fluid harmony of a barbershop quartet is pretty; these fellows have that soothing sound. As Frank Sinatra, a barbershop quartet member prior to his successful career as a solo crooner provides that same prettiness that is so romantic.
W. Jerome Stevenson, Musical Director and Timothy Stewart, Director have combined their talents with these four men to create a show that is humorous, poignant and most of all – mellow with “Forever Plaid” written by Stuart Ross. More of a Musical Revue than a play, “Forever Plaid” allows a discriminating audience to be thoroughly entertained and emotionally stimulated. Because the boy bands flourished during the 50’s, “Forever Plaid” is a show for the 50-plus crowd, but also, for any vocal music lover the show is a delightful escape. It is an experience appreciated by lovers of any age without resorting to titillation.
Todd Malicoate on Piano, Jason Hunt on Bass and Aaron Marshall, Percussionist accompany the singers discreetly yet flourishingly, adding a nice dimension to the presentation. Michael James, Costume Designer, executes perfect tuxedos and the cast looks as snappy as they sound.
The four singers, Jinx, Frankie, Sparky and Smudge invite romance so couples may have the greatest appreciation for the program.
“Forever Plaid” shows through September 15th 2012 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm. There are two Sunday and Thursday performances (September 5th and 14th for Thursdays and 2 pm Sundays September 2nd and 9th.) Tickets are available online at www.thepollard.org or at the box office at 120 W. Harrison Avenue or simply dial 405-282-2800 for reservations.
In order to be accepted into any cat society such as Jellicle cats, first accept the genuine and endearing sensual and sinuous approach to life that only felines master. In order to cast the musical “Cats” gather those felines in human form who have mastered cat hood in any one of their nine lives. In order to keep the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber pure, look first to the poems of T. S. Eliot because only Jellicle cats can sing with feline truth. At Jewel Box Theatre in Oklahoma City, Director and Choreographer Susan Webb has done just that. This is a cast of cats.
Musical Director Stephanie Moring works well with Webb to create the wonder of “Cats” in the songs, as each cat member emotes perfectly. But is it in the movement that the characterizations are most fully realized and Webb has choreographed the production so that it accommodates the area of performance and compliments those special talents of cats.
Costumer Mimi Lynch did not undertake the creation of costumes for the show, but her contributions in organizing the costumes supplied by Costume World Theatrical are evident. A simple set with a wonderfully defined floor space and excellent lighting gives the show an eerie look into the world of cats living within the confines of human society.
The largely ensemble cast cannot be credited individually, but they worked together as one in attitude and motion. There are a few notable stand outs that should be mentioned among the dancers and central characters. Makenna Smith takes the role of Grizabella with that unusual grace only cats can exhibit when age robs them of their vitality. Her heartfelt rendition of ‘Memory’ brings tears to the eyes. Bob Windsor as Old Gus is equally cat-like in his movements as the elderly cat from the theatre. His reminiscing is wonderfully executed. Randall Hunter as Deuteronomy is excellently portrayed as is Scott Hynes in his creation of Munkustrap. A personal favorite, Jennyanydots, is beautifully created by Elizabeth Dragoo and Megan Montgomery’s Jemima is equally delightful. Among the dancers, Emily Frances Brown as Victoria the white kitten is nicely done and Quincy Allen as Alonzo, the Rumpus Cat and Macavity dances exuberantly, expertly and with emotional honesty.
“Cats” is an ambitious project for a small company such as the Jewel Box Community Theatre; however, they have met the bar such a project raises and exceeding expectations marvelously. Almost everyone should see a superb performance of “Cats” somewhere along the line. There are many companies that tour the production. “Cats” is the second longest running Broadway Musical in history. “Cats” is a Tony Award Winner. For anybody who has not had the opportunity to see the professional production on Broadway or one of the many touring productions seeing this production of “Cats” will fulfill the promise.
“Cats” is a production for all humans whether ‘catty’ or not. Take the kids and the grandma and go. To Jewel Box Theatre Thursday through Saturday evenings at 8:00pm and Sunday afternoons at 2:30pm through September 16th. For reservations call 405-521-1786 and the box office answers Tuesday through Friday from 1:00pm until 6:00pm. The Jewel Box Theatre is located at the First Christian Church at 3700 N. Walker in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
OKCImprov is now being hosted by Reduxion’s Broadway Theatre at 1613 N. Broadway in Oklahoma City. This location has the advantage of space with. They will be appearing on Saturday nights at 8:00pm and 10:00pm through August.
Saturday, July 28, at the top of the 8:00pm show the fun begins with Kind of a Big Deal. This is a group of teen improvisers from Spotlight Acting Academy. Teacher, Jodi Nestander has brought out the best in these youngsters as they strive to entertain, and in so doing strive to understand human nature. Appearing on Saturday, two troupe members, Leah Clemenson and Libby Ennenga are catapulted into the limelight with dignity and grace. While it seems they had a little trouble sticking with the suggestions given by the audience, the two girls keep the activity and pace up to high standards.
The second troupe to perform is Jodi Nestander and Raychel Winstead in Two’s Company. These two women have excellent rapport with each other and that rapport extends to the audience. The two ask for a photo from the audience and using that photo and several dates suggested by the audience, they create an entire family experience throughout several generations.
A troupe of 8 actors makes up the Ballpark Theatre Company with a delightful long form improvisation. Given a movie genre to base their improvisation upon, they develop an entire script and act out a typical movie based on the audience suggestion. This troupe is quite exciting and has the honor to represent Oklahoma at the upcoming Austin Festival.
These three troupes are the typically hysterical seen at any of the OKCImprov shows. Every Saturday night there are two shows: 8:00pm and 10:00pm. On July 28th, the 10:00pm show features Twinprov with Buck and Clint Vrazel and The Midolls two favorites for Oklahoma City audiences. Also ZOOM! is performing in this time slot.
Each improvisation is different on any given night. The story line for the show is determined by the audience and is very unpredictable. Therefore, the best review method is to review the actors as seen in their various improvisational troupes.
Jodi Nestander is a wonderful improviser. Her ability to react to new and unusual situations with a delightfully hysterical expression is unparalleled. Nestander performs opposite Raychel Winstead in Two’s Company as well as several other troupes. Further this has carried over to her teaching ability as she directs her students from Spotlight Acting Academy in Kind of a Big Deal. Although there are several performers affiliated with the troupe there number varies from show to show. Libby Ennenga and Leah Clemenson show us a delightful teen version of life, and with a little help from the audience creates a memorable story.
Raychel Winstead performs along with Nestander in Two’s Company, Her performance is consistent and her ability to thing on her feet is showcased beautifully in the rapport she has developed with Nestander. Winstead is also a featured performer in several other improve groups and is always a bright addition.
Kyle Gossett provides the musical direction for the next troupe featured July 28. Ballpark Theatre Company consists of 8 superb cast members enacting our favorite movies. The troupe features Gossett, Kyle Brower, Ben Davis, Heather King, Kellen Hodgeson, Tim Huckaby, Jessi Kyle and Jeannette Schreiber. All of these performers exhibit exceptional timing, a difficult task in improvisation. These talented performers are also featured in many of the other improve troupes that Oklahoma City is becoming noted for developing.
OKCImprov is produced by Buck Vrazel, Clint Vrazel, Sue Ellen Reiman and Jeanette Schreiber. Hosted by Reduxion’s Broadway Theater at 1613 N Broadway in Oklahoma City, OKCImprov will showcase outstanding performances each Saturday night at 8:00 and 10:00pm. For more information contact 405-456-9858 or write at firstname.lastname@example.org. Online information is at www.okcimprov.com.
Shakespeare in the Park presents beautifully at the Water Stage in the Myriad Gardens. Yet in the hottest and driest month of the year moving to a space indoors is a delightful and welcome relief. Oklahoma City University is hosting Shakespeare in the Park’s production of “Cymbeline” in the Burg Theatre on the OCU campus. Very nice indeed!
“Cymbeline” is not one of Shakespeare’s better known plays. Set in the Roman Empire under Caesar, Britain is a province that must pay tribute to Rome. The play has a very convoluted plot, telling the story of the Princess Imogen, daughter to the King, Cymbeline, who has fallen in love with the wrong man. She has secretly married the lowly lordling, Posthumous, and her father is incensed. Cymbeline’s Queen is step-mother to Imogen and has plotted a marriage between Imogen and her son Cloten. Posthumous is exiled to Rome where he foolishly wagers on Imogen’s chastity with the irresponsible rake, Iachimo. Imogen must ultimately escape both the bad reputation she is given by Iachimo, and her father’s determination to have her marry Cloten. The program has a very helpful synopsis and one should take a few moments to read this in order to better understand the action.
The cast of “Cymbeline” under the direction of Kathryn McGill creates a credible flow with clarity which enables the audience to follow the twists and turns in the play. The set is very minimalistic and the scenes are created by subtle lighting effects. McGill’s Assistant Director and Dramaturg, Caprice Woosley, and Fight Choreographer, Josh Henry, enable McGill to provide a concise flow to the piece counteracting complications many modern viewers encounter with Shakespeare.
J. Shane McClure, in the title role, gives a forceful and realistic performance. McClure’s presence is arresting and very interesting. Allyson Capetta is a lovely Imogen and although her speech pattern is a little rapid, her character beams through nicely. The wicked step-mother, The Queen, is played by Mandee Chapman-Roach. She has an excellent characterization, and her mannerisms are very natural allowing her character to fool her King, Cymbeline. Yet her deliciously subtle evil is apparent to the audience.
Kyle Whalen is Posthumous and his performance is well done. While there are actually very few moments allowing Imogen and Posthumous to relate to each other, Whalen and Capetta do create the vision of a loving couple. As rival to Posthumous, the crafty Cloten is portrayed by Josh Henry. Henry has just the right amount of cunning and his talent is evident as an actor as well as choreographer.
Rob Gallavan is Iachimo the dastardly villain. Gallavan presents the slick con-artist type of villain with realism and manages his underhanded examination of Imogen as believably as possible. The independent conspiracies of Iachimo and the Queen are handled beautifully by both Chapman-Roach and Gallavan are fun for modern audiences to watch, and it is clear that both actors enjoy their roles.
David Fletcher-Hall provides the original music for the production which is excellent. In the opening overture, the music sets up the play very well, although the drum which appears to be of Native American origin is confusing, the sound is quite nice. Fletcher-Hall also shines as Belarius, exiled from Britain many years ago. Fletcher-Hall has a very controlled and directed delivery creating an understandable presentation. His experience as a Shakespearean actor gives him quite an edge, and his talent as the banished nobleman is unmistakable. His two adopted sons, Guiderius and Arvirgus, are portrayed by Andrew Rathgeber and Nathan Cockroft respectively. While the two actors appear earlier in the play as either lords or servants their characterizations of the two sons are clearly defined as different and distinct.
As Caius Lucius or Philario, actor Michael Gibbons has a commanding personality. Defined in a different fashion in each case, his performance is vital to the production providing stability. He does so with a distinguished grace.
In viewing Shakespeare one often finds the noble characters to be a little dull-witted. Yet the servants seem to be more reasonable and intelligent. The role of Pisanio is such a one. He is faithful to Posthumous and helpful to Imogen. The actor is Mason Pain. He is realistically intelligent although not cunning, and is a nice counterpoint to Iachimo who is realistically cunning although not quite so bright.
Martha Corkum gives a very nice presentation as Doctor Cornelius although her delivery during the last scene when she must explain all the convolutions seems a little rushed. Shakespeare does seem to wrap up a great deal of confusion and contrivance at very last minute and is naturally quite quick. A more deliberate delivery would help the audience absorb the far-fetched happenstance. This would also give McClure a better chance to react with the massive changes in his life giving the end of the play more substance.
Elisa Regulski is refreshing in her performance as a lady of the court. She is unaffected in her performance and seems to observe the action with aplomb. She also appears as a tribune and defines the masculine securely.
There are a few scenes in this production Director McGill should be especially proud to present. The battle scene choreographed by Josh Henry used a very few souls to create the impression of two armies clashing, and the scene works beautifully. Also the devious expressions of the Queen are quite wonderful nearly allowing Chapman-Roach to steal the show.
“Cymbeline” can only be seen through this weekend at the Burg Theatre on the Oklahoma City University campus. Remaining performances are Friday and Saturday evening at 8:00pm and Sunday at 2:00pm. Sunday’s performance will be a great way to escape the afternoon heat. For tickets visit www.oklahomashakespeare.com or call 405-235-3700.