Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Scenes from An Execution"

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"Scenes from An Execution"

Reviewed by Will Stackman

Two final projects from the Theatre School at BU's College of Fine Arts were shown this month. The first, which ran one weekend in Studio 210 was "The Tempest", directed by MFA Directing Fellow, Lenny Lebowitz, featured Sarah Betnel, an MFA candidate as "Prospera," an increasingly common gender-switch for this role. The second, a much larger scale production at the new Wimberley Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, was a revival of Howard Barker's 1986 historical/psychological drama, "Scenes from an Execution." This poetic script with a rather elusive title premiered at the Almeida Theatre in London, developed by the Wrestling School Theatre Company. Incidentally ,Brandeis did a smaller scale student production last year,. Helmed by the current Director of B.U. School of Theatre, Jim Petosa, and featuring faculty member, Paula Langton in the lead, this production was as effective as almost any seen at the BCA this year.

Some of the B.U. senior acting students in the piece were a bit young for their roles, but the Brechtian nature of this post"Galileo" script made this objection moot most of the time. Paula Langton, the School's Head of Acting, was last seen as Regan in the Actors' Shakespeare Company production of "King Lear." Here she's Galactia, a free-spirited painter in the 17th Century Republic of Venice, who's been commissioned for her immense talent, but not without misgivings, to do a huge painting of "The Battle of Lepanto," a climatic confrontation with the Turks. Langton creates and maintains a compelling dynamic portrait of an artist committed to the truth as she sees it. What she sees--and paints--is forceful enough to make strong men weep and politicians cringe. Barker's solution to the show's political dilemma is unique and perhaps the source of his title. And the HTC or other major venues in town are missing the boat if they don't consider Langston for major roles in the future, providing she's interested, of course.

Commendable acting jobs were done by the students playing the Doge Urgentino(Gabe Levey), a female art critic Rivera(Rachel Rausch), and Prodo the man with a crossbow bolt sticking out of his head (Tim Spears), plus a ubiquitous character labeled Sketchbook (Ava Eisenson). Since not everyone had a program bio, and those that did didn't have role identification, sorting out the actors was unnecessarily confusing. This is one play, given the odd character names, where brief labels in the cast list are a prerequisite. Costuming helped somewhat; modern dress worked quite well given the careful choices made by Sekula Sunadinovski. There were no bios for the technical staff, which was unfortunate. But in any case, should members of this company chose to try their luck in local Boston theatre after graduation, they will be a real asset. The set by Eric Allgeier, with large two-story wagons on each side and a variety of hanging units was striking, offering a range of spaces and effects. It was well lit by Andy Foley. The Wimberley offers all the technical accouterments of the school's large theatre, which should make for some spectacular student shows in the further.

In January, for the second year, the African American Theatre Festival will use this theatre, with a world premiere of Jacqui Parker's play about the murder of Emmett Till as its centerpiece, to be followed by the first Boston appearance of the current edition of the long-running NYC review, "Forbidden Broadway" from mid-February to mid-March. Now if the BCA can only find more to do with the Pavilion in the summer.

"Scenes from An Execution" (8 - 18 December)
Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 266-0800

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide