Saturday, July 13, 2013

Serious Money *** and The Castle **

(Please click on the title to see the complete reviews.)
PTP/NYC [Potomac Theatre Project], back in town for their annual summer repertory season at Atlantic Stage 2, is presenting two ensemble works by living British playwrights. By far the better known of the two, at least on this side of the pond, is Caryl Churchill, whose 1987 satire in verse about greed in the financial markets is a delectable treat that has not lost its relevance. This lively and energetic production with a cast of 17 never gets bogged down in the arcane details of financial trading that drive the action. Director Cheryl Faraone's direction is assured. No choreographer or movement consultant is credited, but the blocking of the group scenes is very effective. Hallie Zieselman's witty set includes chandeliers that are inverted pyramids of champagne bottles. The costumes by Jule Emerson and Krista Duke are a delight. At times the author seemed to be trying too hard to cover the subject comprehensively, which made the evening a bit long, but nonetheless enjoyable. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes including intermission.

Although he has written over 50 plays, Howard Barker's name was new to me. He calls his work the "theater of catastrophe." The Castle is set in 12th century England when a Crusader returns home to find that the women have wrought many changes in his absence. The lord attempts to reestablish order by building a large castle. There are too many themes such as arms proliferation, church-state relations, the nature of God, relations between the sexes that are touched upon but not fully developed. I applaud the playwright for his Shakespearean ambition, but found the execution wanting. This production's number one attraction is that it provides a juicy role for Jan Maxwell, whose presence on a stage is always a treat. Jon Crane's simple set makes heavy use of draped cloth. Jule Emerson's costumes help establish the setting. Richard Romagnoli directed. A recent article quotes the author as saying: "A good play puts the audience through a certain ordeal. I'm not interested in entertainment." To which I would add: "Goal achieved." Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes including intermission.

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