ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
Most Bardologists seem now to concur that this expose of love and courtship has been slow coming into its own. Brian B. Crowe who directed the comedy for STNJ indoors in 2004 has again re-energized it, speeding us through the contrivances and bittersweet conceits in under two hours. . . sacrificing very little of this semi-serio-comedy's romantic guideposts.
Speaking of plots: The actors have learned the art of integrating the disruption of overhead airplanes into a scene. Twice the noise was a cue for a banner to be raised - Navarre Airlines presents Cupid's Relay prompting a charming pantomime to be discharged across the stage.
Recently decreed as "a little academe" by King Ferdinand of Navarre (played with a disarming wink and engaging swagger by Jonathan Raviv), his court has been turned into a world where three equally attractive and lusty young men — Berowne (Ben Jacoby), Dumaine (Austin Ku), Longaville (Aaron McDaniel)— and the king himself commit to total immersion in a three-year program of concentrated studies. This calls for sleeping only three hours a night, fasting, but most importantly, living there without setting their eyes on any women.
Although the court has been created by Ferdinand to inspire the mind, it unsurprisingly becomes an environment where romance quickly overshadows academic pursuits as well as the vacuous ranting of Holofernes a condescending schoolmaster (played with a delightfully foolish bravado by Bruce Cromer). The action takes place in the park of the King of Navarre, designed by Charlie Calvert as a green on green checkerboard with arches and with space on the side for a raised alabaster-like platform. A small fairy garden with a miniature Cupid is a nice touch.
Crowe revalidates his, and more notably Shakespeare's, penchant for mixing silliness and substance with an ease that is as palatable as it is pleasurable. Given the play's literary affectation, its high brow iambic pentameter and its even higher flown buffoonery, Crowe's endeavor to keep us laughing even as the truths behind the garrulously poetic discourses become more evident and relevant, is commendable. I laughed more than I like to admit.
The central pleasure of the play generally rests with the actor who plays Berowne, the noblest of the three noble attendants to the king and Joseph Hamel is an exemplary specimen of confounded emotions.
It is easy to become smitten by the presence and conduct of the beautiful and self-assured Princess of France (Jesmille Darbouze) Ostentation reaches its zenith with the "fantastical" speechifying Spaniard Don Armado (Jeffrey M. Bender).
Costume designer Nikki Delhomme addresses the green-on-green backdrop with stunningly embroidered blue, gold and tangerine gowns and garb for both the ladies and the gentlemen. . . (let's guess at 19th century) . . . with the ostentatious Don Armado's red plumed hat a fashion statement of its own.
Other supporting roles that won the audience's favor include Rebecca Gomberg as a dairy maid and Kristen Kittel, Susan Maris, and Carrie Walsh as a trio of unusually beguiling attendants to the princess. Clark Scott Carmichael is not be upstaged as the stylish and flitty Lord Boyet the ladies' stylish Oscar Wilde-ish companion.
While the play reaches it comedic peak with the courtiers masquerading as "a mess of (dancing) Russians," it also reaches its nadir with the overly long not-so-funny pageant/entertainment/burlesque devised by the schoolmaster and the curate. But, just when the play appears to be uncomfortably shifting its gears Crowe gets it back on track. He reminds us that Shakespeare's most chaste investigation of love is also getting the range it deserves, as well as the respect it rarely ever gets.
Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show
Slings & Arrows-the complete set
You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company