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The Fourposter
a Romantic Comedy
by Jan deHartog

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 3607

SHOWING : January 22, 2010 - February 14, 2010



Winner of the Tony Award as Best Play, this theatrical Valentine is a 35 year chronicle of a husband and wife beginning on their wedding night in 1890. They fret and quarrel, laugh and cry and make love in the same room in which they began their married life. And through the years is the old four poster, a silent witness to all their memories.

Director Robert Egizio
Costume Design Jim Alford
Sound Design Dan Bauman
Wig Design George Deavours
Production Manager Courtney Loner
Scenic Design Chuck Welcome
Stage Manager Hampton Whatley
Lighting Design John David Williams
Michael Tim Batten
Agnes Shayne Kohout
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Needs the Music
by playgoer
Sunday, February 14, 2010
I've seen "I Do! I Do!" a couple of times. The musical version of Jan de Hartog's "The Fourposter" is a tuneful, swift-moving show that I've always found entertaining. The original, though, is a turgid character piece that depends on the charisma and chemistry of its actors to carry the play. In Stage Door Players' production, that magical spark doesn't quite catch fire.

Shayne Kohout is lovely as Agnes, with the bearing and demeanor of an upper middle class lady from the 1890's. She carries her costumes beautifully throughout, although her yellow pregnancy dress was so tailored she was barely showing in her supposed eighth month. Her performance has the understated simplicity of a film appearance. A little more vitality might have helped the overall energy of the production.

Tim Batten, playing her husband Michael, appears a little shorter than Ms. Kohout. That wouldn't be much of a hindrance if his costumes didn't emphasize the lack of sleekness in his line. In act one, he wears a particularly unfortunate set of tails with gorilla-like sleeves. Michael is supposed to be a bit of a peacock, but in this scene he looks like a high school student appearing onstage in a borrowed, ill-fitting tux. It throws off the balance of the scene, since Shayne Kohout is the picture of elegance in her perfectly period dress.

Jim Alford's costumes are usually stunning, but sometimes are downright wrong. The first scene takes place in 1890, yet Michael is seen zipping and unzipping his trousers. If a button fly was impossible due to costume availability or timing considerations, it could certainly have been mimed with effectiveness. Robert Egizio deserves a slap on the hand for allowing this oversight.

Wigs, like the costumes, aren't always right. In a scene where Agnes makes a veiled reference to approaching menopause, she has been given a dowdy wig that makes her look prematurely aged, particularly in contrast to the youthful flavor of Michael's unchanging hair.

The set doesn't ring completely true either. It's blandly elegant, with some needed color added during the act break, but the faux painting of the woodwork looks like nothing but splotchy brown paint. It's another aspect leading to the uneven visual look of the production.

Lighting has its own issues. The first scene takes place supposedly in gaslight, and it's pretty dimly lit. The lack of clarity and vibrance at the start of the show colors the whole production. The visual appeal is bland throughout too much of the show.

None of this would matter if the subject matter and pace of the play kept interest from start to finish. The play has no plot, with a cute anecdote concerning the son's supposed secret drinking acting as the highlight of the "action." It's a quiet play, performed at a measured pace. For an audience attuned to its small pleasures, that's not a detriment. For the rest of us, lifted up by Robert Egizio's energetic opening speech, the play runs with the energy of a slowly leaking balloon, leaving the rueful impression of a troubled marriage lasting longer than anyone thought it would.

This is not a bad production by any standards. Lots of the elements are excellent, and no one's contribution is consistently wrong-headed. It's a matter of a number of elements not quite holding their own that make the production less than the sum of the best of its constituent parts. Stage Door Players is bringing attention to an often-overlooked modern classic, but the production doesn't have the joyful impact of rediscovering a lost treasure. The impact is just a light touch, barely leaving an impression. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
by Mama Alma
Monday, February 8, 2010
Jan deHartog's The Fourposter is a play of such simple elegance as to be deceptive. A gem of spareness and immediacy, it is at once recognizable, yet contains no extraneous parts, much like a Picasso line drawing. The Fourposter is the story of Michael and Agnes, seen at various points in their relationship: a wedding day, the birth and raising of children, the downsizing of a suddenly empty household. All conversation takes place in and around their fourposter bed. Nothing very out of the ordinary happens. And yet the story told is of the essence of an intimate committed relationship, both the good and the bad. No line, no word can be added or subtracted. It is perfection.

With a script of such fine balance, the trick is to find actors who will embody, rather than act, the parts. It takes actors of great restraint and sensibility, even humility, to be able to embody characters like Michael and Agnes. When done well, the audience may assume the actors were just "playing themselves." Indeed, the original Broadway casting for this play featured the real life couple Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn.

Stage Door hit the jackpot with Shayne Kohout and Tim Batten. Ms. Kohout has a regalness in her bearing that evokes the primness of the 1890s, the steely spine so evident in women born in the 19th Century. Mr. Batten gives Michael an almost military discipline and reserve in his posture, suggesting an era when men did not share their feelings easily. In the intimacy of the bedroom, the steely spine and the military bearing are allowed to waver, offering glimpses into the more private Michael and Agnes. As Michael advances in his career, Mr. Batten affects, for a brief moment, a certain pomposity of speech, quickly punctured by heated conversation with his wife. By understated, almost visceral attributes Ms. Kohout and Mr. Batten finely layer their portrayals, freeing themselves to be totally natural in their conversation.

In my favorite scene the actors, in full view of the audience, change costume and re-dress the set, before packing up and leaving their home for the last time. (Fittingly, the music accompanying this transformation is Pachelbel's Canon, a single theme varyingly repeated.) Again, Ms. Kohout and Mr. Batten are understated. They do not hobble their steps or quaver in their speech, but merely suggest age with quiet deliberateness and dignity. The final touch, ending as they began, suggested that they were at the threshold of a new beginning. It was, again, very simple, yet very affecting.

Jim Alford's costuming (assisted admirably by George Deavours' wigs) and Chuck Welcome's set beautifully echo the waxing and waning of Agnes and Michael's relationship. Alford's palette moves from sunny expectant tones for the birth of a child through the neutrals and cool tones suggesting class consciousness, prosperity, and estrangement. Welcome produces a vanity just as Agnes appears, very smart, in stylish gold and black. New curtains appear as the couple begins wearing fashionable Chinese silks. In the final scene, Alford dresses his characters in a style owing as much to comfort as to fastidiousness, and Welcome has moved the vanity to a functional corner, no longer a centerpiece. Small things. Expertly placed. All servicing the story.

There comes a moment in a deep snowfall when sound retreats, save for the hiss of snow on snow. It is a moment of surpassing peace and beauty, created by tens of thousands of tiny snowflakes, each negligible on its own. Nothing extraordinary happens in The Fourposter, just the passage of tens of thousands of ephemeral moments, very like those in any couple's lives, but here told with steadfast simplicity and truth, so as to leave an impression of final, exquisite beauty. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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