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A Room of One's Own

Tod Randolph Is Back As Virginia Woolf

Put together a fine actress and an interesting historic figure and you have the makings of a play with suprising staying power. Tod Randolph is such an actress and Virginia Woolf is certainly such a figure.

While other actresses have performed Garland's adaptation, we have come to think of it as the play of Shakespeare's own Tod Randolph. When Randolph took the play to a small Off-Broadway theater company known as The Salon (not unlike The Mount but without the grand views and surroundings), we asked Barbara K. Mehlman who had seen a more lavish production elsewhere to go and see it. Her review proves that whether in Manhattan or at the Mount, Ms. Randolph is indeed a commanding Virginia Woolf.

As I predicted in the review below, Tod a.k.a. Virginia Wolf has returned to Shakespeare & Company. In this year when Shakespeare became the rage with movie makers, the ruminations about Shakespeare's sister make this latest production of A Room Of One's Own more pertinent than ever so if you have't seen it yet or are visiting the area, put it on your to-do list.

A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN Wharton Theatre, The Mount
2 Plunket St., Lenox, MA
through 8/01/99
For tickets and performing schedule (413/637-3353

--- Original Review ---

Shakespeare & Company has a penchant for making intriguing plays from books and other literary artifacts by and about women -- the sort of women one might hope to meet at a gathering held in the parlor of Edith Wharton's estate before it became the Wharton theater. Some of these women even rate more than one play, like Virginia Woolf who showed up five years ago in Virginia and now closes out the busy season with a brief run of Garland Wright's adaptation of Woolf's famous feminist manifesto, A Room of One's Own.

This literate and witty essay which grew out of two lectures Woolf delivered at Cambridge University in 1928, has already been dramatized on public television and recorded on audio cassette. If its ranking at the Amazon book store is any indication, it's also still widely read even though its advice -- (acquire monetary wealth and a room of your own or you'll never have a place of your own in fiction -- or any other important cultural niche) -- is hardly revolutionary as we are on the brink of the next millenium. To make the impact it once did, an adapter would have to be as imaginative as Woolf was when she imagined the lives of women, (i.e. Shakespeare's sister), had they not been corseted by the customs of their times. With Hillary Clinton's visit to the Mount as part of her preservation project still fresh in memory, a meeting between Woolf and the First Lady might have raised some issues not quite so much of the been there, done that genre. An additional character, any additional character, on stage would also prevent the problems inherent in this as so many of the monologues that have of late become a major theatrical genre.

Still, A Room of One's Own is alive with sharply observed opinions and, since it has as its star Tod Randolph, it will undoubtedly sell out its limited run (in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it returned for a longer engagement in summer '99). With her expressive face, mellifluous voice and commanding stage presence, Ms Randolph is one of those actresses who could hold your attention even if she were reading from the telephone book. While the device of recording Ms. Randolph's voice to express her thoughts does little to sever this monoplay from its lecture connection, the actress does have a lot more than the telephone book or an ordinary speaker's lecture to work with. This is after all author of Mrs. Dalloway, Jacob's Room, and To the Lighthouse.

A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN Adapted from Virginia Woolf By Patrick Garland Directed by Daniela Varon
Starring: Tod Randolph
Sets: Patrick Brennan
Costumes: Alison Ragland
Lights: Stephen Ball
Sound: Mark Huang
Wharton Theatre, The Mount 2 Plunket St., Lenox, MA (413/637-3353
9/01/98-9/06/98; Reviewed 9/02/98 by Elyse Sommer

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