“I danced for the Devil”

Does this sound familiar: rabid anti-gay rights activist caught making pass at a man in washroom – admits he is gay. The accuser being guilty of what he accuses others of – this is a part of the many layers of guilt in The Crucible. Guilty of one crime you are guilty of all crimes. Accusation = guilt. Being innocent doesn’t undo the stain of the accusation. The Crucible functions on many levels – the use of authority is more important that justice, the denial of guilt is really an admission of guilt.

My last theatre day trip to Stratford was to see Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. A play about witches in October – what a concept 🙂 The production was intense, riveting & the political allegory hasn’t dated a bit. Except these days many don’t care about guilt if the guilty are rich enough – a president can admit to ‘grabbing pussy’ (underage beauty contestants should be flattered he grabbed their privates) & is still in power. But I digress.

The simple set with side pieces of tall trees moves silently & easily to accommodate several locations. The ambient sound before the play starts create a a sense of forest. Once the plays starts with the ‘possessed’ child (nice nod here to ‘The Exorcist’) it moves with constant intent & mounting emotional & physical intensity.

The performances were strong for a cast who clearly enjoyed these characters, had dug deep into the text itself, & gave unexpectedly raw performances. Tim Campbell as John Proctor & Scott Wentworth as Reverend Parris gave amazing performances – perhaps the best I’ve seen by Scott Wentworth. I was drawn into the dense emotional mire both men were feeling on opposite sides of the conflict.

Shannon Taylor as Elizabeth Proctor was strong – her moment of ‘truth’ brought gasps from the audience. The tempted ‘girls’ lead by Katelyn McCulloch as Abigail Williams were given great dramatic moments of demonic possession. Katelyn was good but was more saucy than vengeful. They were women not girls or children, as they were referred to on the text.

I had seat in 4th row orchestra so had a very close view of the superb costumes plus I was impressed by the meticulous wig work. This is an excellent production, perhaps the best I’ve seen this season & one of the most compelling I’ve seen of stage in some time. Jonathan Goad’s direction brought performances that were deeply effective & made a challenging text engaging & challenging at the same time. 

“I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book.” Arthur Miller

other 2019 reviews:

Costume Warehouse Tour – Me? Caped Crusader https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3vQ

Henry VIII – ‘Abject Object’ https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3vW 

Our Father Issues  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3CB

Cape Breton (Liberation Army) Day 7 https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3Gj

Mae Brecht’s Sex https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3ND

Plant Food For Thought https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3Oo


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & 2020 theatre tickets. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 

“Abject Object”

Over the years I have seen nearly all Shakespeare’s plays. Thankfully Stratford Festival presents one of the infrequently produced ones every year or so. This year it is Henry VIII, which we saw at the intimate Studio Theatre. A play with the largest cast list done in the smallest theatre presented a challenge for director Martha Henry, which she met with ease.

This was a preview production but most of the performances were excellent. Irene Poole as Queen Katherine was strong, her death scene was compelling – cutting the appearance of the spirit apparitions allowed the scene even greater emotional resonance. Kim Horsman as Duchess of Norfolk was great fun. Jonathan Goad as Henry was boyish, regal and made the king so appealing one almost forgives his treatment of women. The supporting players were good, Scott Wentworth as the Duke of Norfolk was particularly strong.

Thanks to the series The Tudors I was able to sort out the political web that was being spun for Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn but I’m not sure how anyone unfamiliar with the actual history would have fared with the religious & political intrigues that run though the play. But the play is also an emotional look at the disintegration of a marriage regardless of the political context.

The staging was simple, the costumes were detailed, though there were more sequins than one would have expected at that time 🙂 The ending bows were cleverly  choreographed. Highly recommended.

 

My only quibble is with an audience member, in my row, two seats to my right who felt it was perfectly fine to use his smartphone to check messages & text replies two different times, while the show was in progress. I guess I should be grateful he didn’t start a whispered conversation on it. 

 

 

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Honourable Women

Where to start with this so-so Stratford Festival production of Julius Caesar? This early play, not regarded as one of Shakespeare’s better pieces, isn’t improved any by the casting of women in the lead roles. I was hoping there would be some layered resonance on the current discussion about gender & representation but if there is it was under too many layers. An arrogant & ambitious ruler meets a bad end. Assassins pay the price of their actions. 

Seana McKenna does not portray Caesar as being particularly arrogant or ambitious. She handles the role well but seems merely content to give the lines a well enunciated delivery. Michelle Giroux as Mark Antony invests the character with urgency & emotional connection. She handles the slyly manipulative “lend me your ears” speech very well. Now this a character with ambitions. Also good was Jonathan Goad as Marcus Brutus. 

Director Scott Wentworth does able work with the ‘rabble’ crowd scenes so they have good energy & theatricality – I really enjoy the opening of Act 2 with the rabble scattered throughout the theatre. Slow motion battle scenes & Gregorian chant didn’t work for me. I did like the hand washing nod to McBeth though.

When men play women, cross-dressing or doing drag, they are judged by how well they pass as women, so it is fair to do the same for when women play men. Seana is the most successful on surface appearance, Michelle is okay, Irene Poole as Cassius could pass as a teenage boy not as an adult male. Other women cast as men in the production are more androgynous than masculine. 

 

I was happy to see Julius Caesar and this is a solid production. I also appreciated the casting of women in men’s roles – this sort of gender play, only reversed, was the law in Shakespeare’s time. Maybe it’s time for a really tradition production where men play all the roles. Scott Wentworth would make a brilliant Lady McBeth.

PS: No one says: “Great Caesar’s ghost.” Also, I could not get that classic Canadian comedy moment “Julie, don’t go!  Julie, don’t go!  But he wouldn’t listen!” out of my mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR_5h8CzRcI

Other summer reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: The King and My Memories https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y 

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