Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Secret Love Life of Ophelia"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi


by Steven Berkoff
directed by Wesley Savick

Ophelia … Stacy Fischer
Hamlet … Aaron Pitre

A noticeable trend among writers is to show an alternate view of an Event, or What Really Happened, be it send-up, deconstruction or what-have-you; Steven Berkoff’s THE SECRET LOVE LIFE OF OPHELIA, via The Nora Theatre, consists of letters between Hamlet and Ophelia en route to the latter drowning herself. The secret lovers arouse one another with steamy, if not Elizabethan, prose but are frustrated by class differences, Ophelia’s nosey father and Hamlet harboring a family secret. Mr. Berkoff proposes that the original H&O clashes are really charades for their elders' sake but the subterfuge backfires and Shakespeare resumes control: the maddened Ophelia is last seen tossing petals into a pool, accompanied by Gertrude’s “drowned” monologue which, I gather, is from the Olivier soundtrack. The play’s interest lies in whether or not Mr. Berkoff has written an ingenious prequel; THE SECRET LOVE LIFE OF OPHELIA is clever enough but revolves for far too long --- such is the risk of reciting endless letters, aloud…

But do attend for Wesley Savick’s bare-boned direction, coming hot on the heels of the detailed THE ENGLISH CHANNEL, Ryan McGettigan’s Wooden O with said pool in the middle of it, Erin E. Moulton’s hypnotic reflections of light upon water and for two compelling young actors from contrasting corners: Aaron Pitre alternately purred and declaimed a reading into my ear while Stacy Fischer gave a performance; thus, I was always aware of Mr. Pitre but came to know Ophelia. I’ve not seen Ms. Fischer since her waif in THE SANCTUARY LAMP where she broke away from playing daffy-girls and I’ve missed her Bard heroines; when Ms. Fischer entered in period dress but with her hair all north-by-northwest, I assumed that Mr. Savick envisioned OPHELIA as a comedy (and Ms. Fischer is hilarious when listening, poker-faced, to Hamlet’s lascivious scenarios), but I was soon impressed at the amount of tragedy he has pulled out of this deceptive little clown: Ms. Fischer’s voice may never mature into a rich, mellow one --- it has a steady, hammering rhythm, and she tends to click her tongue against her palette --- but she makes a splendid Wild Child from the get-go, equally intoxicated by life, passion and grief. Her madness is best of all: Ms. Fischer keeps hammering at you but drains the color from her voice, her words becoming mere sounds from a broken machine that refuses to stop --- so often, the clowns shall lead the tragedians! Rebekah Maggor, in her one-woman show, offers a noble, classical Ophelia with loosened tresses and haunted stare; balanced by Ms. Fischer, at least one Bard role is well-realized and on tap in the Boston area.

"The Secret Love Life of Ophelia" (13-30 September)
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, BOSTON, MA
1 (866) 811-4111

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide