Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Fortinbras"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi


"FORTINBRAS"

by Lee Blessing
directed by Darren Evans

Barnardo … Brian Anderson
Captain of the Norwegian Army … John Joyce
Claudius … David Wood
Fortinbras … Bill Stambaugh
Gertrude … Pam Mayne
Hamlet … Gordon Ellis
Horatio … David Hansen
Laertes … Justin Dilley
Marcellus … Jonathan Sacramone
Ophelia … Melissa Sine
Osric … Chris Wagner
Polish Maiden (Katrina) … Lauren Shear
Polish Maiden (Lisenka) … Mary Kate Rod
Polonius; English Ambassador … Robert Zawistowski

"FORTINBRAS"

by Lee Blessing
directed by Darren Evans

Barnardo … Brian Anderson
Captain of the Norwegian Army … John Joyce
Claudius … David Wood
Fortinbras … Bill Stambaugh
Gertrude … Pam Mayne
Hamlet … Gordon Ellis
Horatio … David Hansen
Laertes … Justin Dilley
Marcellus … Jonathan Sacramone
Ophelia … Melissa Sine
Osric … Chris Wagner
Polish Maiden (Katrina) … Lauren Shear
Polish Maiden (Lisenka) … Mary Kate Rod
Polonius; English Ambassador … Robert Zawistowski

Lee Blessing’s FORTINBRAS at the Vokes Theatre is a cheeky comedy that picks up where Shakespeare’s HAMLET has just left off: Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude and Laertes are dead and Fortinbras, the son of the late Norwegian king, has entered to learn that he now rules Denmark with Hamlet’s blessing. Mr. Blessing’s Fortinbras is an Ugly Norwegian, genial but pigheaded, who dismisses Horatio’s version of the tragedy (too implausible) and reinvents all those deaths as Poland’s Revenge (Claudius had sent Fortinbras to invade that country, remember?). Fortinbras demands a Polish “spy” as a scapegoat and orders his armies to march back into Poland just for a bit of saber-rattling and, surprise surprise, his fabricating spirals out of control. Aside from Ophelia’s ghost reveling in her new persona as leather-vixen, the dead advise Fortinbras to tell the truth and set things right but their pleas fall on deaf (and dumb) ears. Mr. Blessing has taken Mr. Shakespeare’s plot at face value and injects his own zaniness right down to Hamlet mysteriously trapped inside a television with Ophelia holding the remote control yet in less than a year I’ve attended three local scripts that similarly sent up the past with modern-day dialogue and plenty of anachronisms --- is this the latest trend among today’s comic writers? Why bother with characterization when, say, an ancient Roman can get an easy laugh by having a warning device go off when he steps into his chariot? Happily, Mr. Blessing’s play is one of the better send-ups.

FORTINBRAS’ hilarity runs half an act longer than it should but Darren Evans’ nimble direction keeps things light and spinning and his accomplished cast of clowns and vaudevillians had already jelled by Opening Night so that even the smaller roles were deftly executed (when was the last time walk-ons stuck in your memory?). In looking through past scribbles I find the only time I had previously seen Bill Stambaugh onstage was in FOLLIES IN CONCERT and confess I don’t remember him, there; FORTINBRAS, in turn, plants him firmly center stage. Mr. Stambaugh’s stage presence, bold and oddly innocent, and his criss-cross timing dominate the evening and he keeps Fortinbras’ mood swings from degenerating into vocal chaos. (At first Mr. Stambaugh reminded me of the late Dick York of BEWITCHED fame, but the impression soon passed.) Melissa Sine has evolved into an actress equally at home in comedy and drama while still retaining her wholesome sensuality; two years ago, on the same stage, Ms. Sine was remote; abashed --- since then she has grown in confidence and her Ophelia gives Mr. Stambaugh’s Fortinbras a run for his money (Ms. Sine does not appear in any of the lobby photographs so that her first entrance has maximum impact). The amazing John Joyce turns the Captain of the Guard into a spastic cartoon figure who cannot cross the stage without goose-stepping and David Wood makes a most handsome Claudius with his new beard. I have seen Robert Zawistowski several times before and find him a Dickensian performer, belonging to a time without cell phones and a place without clockwork oranges. His Polonius is a double-pleasure, benefiting from Mr. Zawistowski’s whimsical dignity but also from Mr. Blessing keeping the character mute most of the time. FORTINBRAS is high-quality sitcom but that one little touch --- Polonius as Mime --- proves that Mr. Blessing knows his Shakespeare but also the power of silence.

Special nods to Dean O’Donnell for his breathtaking video-game landscapes projected between scenes; his wizardry opens up whole new exciting avenues for flexible scenic design and sets the stage for the Hamlet-in-TV-Land sequences which, without them, may have been one anachronism too many.

"Fortinbras" (3 - 19 March)
VOKES THEATRE
Route 20, WAYLAND, MA
1 (508) 358-4034

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |