Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Mary Stuart

Photo: Alastair Muir

Sometimes a play disappoints because it's just not the play you want it to be. My interest in seeing Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart (in a new version by Peter Oswald) was simple: I wanted to see the face-off between Mary and Elizabeth, as well as the face-off between the actors playing them, Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter. And when it came, both pairs of women were all that I could hope: strong, smart, passionate, willful, fascinating. And then, mere minutes after it began, the face-off ended. And that was their whole interaction--much, much too short. (A friend pointed out that since they never met in real life, it was really much, much too long, but one of the beauties of theatre is getting to see things that never happened.) In the women's scenes with other people, Walter was sly, manipulative, and powerful, and McTeer chewed the scenery. Much of the rest of the play--too much--consisted of about a day and a half of exposition, followed by a lot of men in anachronistic suits plotting and planning and manipulating and fighting and yelling and conniving--well, you get the point. Much of the acting was excellent (Brian Murray, John Benjamin Hickey, and Chandler Williams in particular) and there was one great special effect, but I would have preferred the show be half as long and completely focused on the queens.

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