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Average Rating Given : 3.87500
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REVIEWS

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard
WOW!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
4.5
The Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead combines superb acting with an exceptionally witty script to present a fabulous show.

Be warned, the script itself is bawdy and explores some very adult themes… and we all know that the Shakespeare Tavern isn’t shy about “going with the flow” if that’s where the text is heading. This is not a show for your middle school kids or your very conservative Grandmama. It is, however, a great show to see if you and your friends want a night on the town worthy of a blog the next day. The cast is athletic, irreverent, energized and totally, thoroughly competent.

Fans of Tom Stoppard won’t be disappointed: this play is Stoppard all the way with its beautiful imagery, witty one-liners, incredible monologues, and a through-line of philosophical queries and suppositions that make the audience question things we take for granted – even being an audience. My only complaint to Mr. McKerley (director) is that the script ought to have been cut. Even though I was completely engaged and laughing my head off until the very end, it’s a long play. But that having been said, I can find little fault with anything else.

Nick Faircloth as Rosencrantz and Paul Hester as Guildenstern have all the chemistry, pathos, fervor, innocence, and hope that one could wish from these two characters. Andrew Houchins as the King makes the most of a small part, and uses his beautiful speaking voice to give the character dignity. Drew Reeves as the Player has the perfect forum in which to display what he does best: BIG emotion, vocal dexterity, and acrobatics indicative of an actor in total control of his body. While Reeves has sometimes been derided for his over-the-top emotion, in this case he does everything the character calls for and more. The tragedians, too, show a great sense of ensemble and comic timing. It was not until then end that I realized that most of them do not even have lines! They were so alive and engaging that it never occurred to me that it was all sans dialogue. Troy Willis as Polonius is delightful – a fey, brown-nosing old man with wild hair and an ingratiating walk. Thank you, Mr. Willis, for making interesting and imaginative choices instead of “phoning in” such a small role, as I have seen other actors do. Heidi Cline’s Queen Gertrude… well, it’s just a shame that such a fine actress was wasted with so little stage time. Yet she makes true the adage, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” Jessica Hunt was adequate as Ophelia, though nothing to write home about. Yes, I know, Ophelia is the smallest part in the whole show; barely anything to her. Yet I can’t help but feel that a more experienced actress would have taken that as a challenge to do something truly unique or unexpected with her. Paul McClain as Hamlet is handsome, comic, resonant of voice, and sarcastic… just the way I imagine Stoppard intended his version of the icon to be. All in all, a wonderful cast.

Kudos, too, to McKerley and costume designer Anne Carole Butler for the lovely color scheme…. took me until the second act to get the joke, but even without that, the “rose” and “gold” tones shine very prettily on the Shakespeare Tavern’s wooden stage. And as always, Lorraine Lombardi “shines” as lighting designer.

On the whole, this is a wonderful, witty, lively production: an imperative for anyone wanting a night of both bawdy comedy and intellectual stimulation.


Godspell, by S. Schwartz and J. Tebelak
Great All-Around Show
Friday, May 9, 2008
4.5
Like other reviewers, I really don't care for this musical at all. I find it very "message-y" in a preachy, rather than "food for thought," way.

However, that having been said, this is the finest production I have yet seen.
This is a true ensemble cast in every sense of the word, and that's one of the things that makes it work so well.

I am particularly thrilled by the music direction. Ann-Carol Pence did an extraordinary job of blending voices, nailing harmonies, assigning songs, and most especially, giving her actors structure while still allowing them the freedom to make individual vocal choices where appropriate.

The set was exciting, and I liked how it was used by those onstage. I also appreciated director Tom Key's choice to send his actors into the audience frequently. Despite my dislike of the show itself, if one is going to commit one's self to that message, it is almost imperative that the actors consider themselves on the same plane as the audience: fellow travelers on a spiritual journey. If Godspell exhorts its audience to follow in Jesus's path, how can the actors and director leave us to be merely voyeurs to an onstage journey? And yet I've seen that done several times with this play and others like it. Thanks, Tom, for understanding that.

As I said, the ensemble was truly amazing, without a weak link in the bunch. Yet two or three still stood out to me as just a hair's breadth above the rest.
Jahi Kearse's Jesus was the most loving and down-to-earth I've ever seen. One of the things I usually dislike about this play is how the actor playing Jesus cannot help but take himself too seriously. I mean, come on! It's JESUS!!! You don't get more iconic than that - and in an attempt to be respectful, many actors play him too... well, "perfectly". Kearse's Jesus was very human - he was funny, he was imperfect, he had real emotions and not all of them were beatific. Yet he was also wise, patient, supremely loving, and he really got jazzed by the teaching he did. I love that HE loved to teach! Add to that a truly beautiful voice, dancing ability, and a handsome face and body,and you get one exquisite performance.

Another stand out was Travis Smith as John the Baptist/Judas. Smith is a very gifted actor and musician, and brings a great deal of subtlety to his performances. And I would be remiss if I failed to give an admiring nod to Naima Carter, who is blessed with a powerhouse of a voice.

Very good show!

Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

Monday, February 18, 2008
3.5
I always enjoy the productions at the Shakespeare Tavern, but this year's R&J seemed less joyful than in previous years. Yes, I know, it's a tragedy, but as their Artistic Director has said in house speeches, "It's a very funny play until everybody starts dying!"
Having seen previous Tavern productions of R&J, I agree. They can find the humor in anything! But this production seemed to lack some luster, some energy. Though Veronika Duerr (Juliet) brings a youthful exhuberance to the part (and she is probably the best thing about this production), it seemed as though she had more chemistry with her dad (Dikron Tulaine as Lord Capulet - also notable for his understated but very funny performance)than with anyone else on stage. I do not mean to imply that this is Duerr's "fault". I just didn't see much genuine chemistry between Duerr and Long (Romeo), though they did their best to manufacture it.
Troy Willis plays a wonderful Friar Lawrence, and newcomer Derek Randall makes more out of his small roles than do most actors.
Yet for all of that, this particular production lacked some spark. I know what the Shakespeare Tavern crew is usually capable of, and this show - while it might have been considered good by other theaters' standards - left me wanting more "oomph" from this crew.

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