an adaptation of
adapted and directed by Jay Michaels
Genesis Rep / Spotlight-On Halloween Festival - Fall 2003
Equity showcase, closed
by Louis Lopardi
There were many layers to this production of a renaissance tragedy, presented as it might have been (we were told) by the theatre of the Grand Guignol. A suitable subject if ever there was one, this bloody tale of a father's revenge for his son's murder may have inspired Shakespeare and many others over the centuries.
The production got off to a confusing and shaky start, in part due to a mix of multi-media presentations, and a little too much on-stage illustrating of text and subtext by cast members acting as "chorus" - something which plagued the entire evening (as well as a great many off-off-Broadway plays this season). For a while they seemed intent on mirroring every mentioned incident. Things settled down once we got into the play proper, and the "chorusing" was used to good effect in a judgement scene and the following madhouse scenes - two of the more consistent ensemble sections of the evening.
It was a massive undertaking. A large cast was well choreographed through the cramped tangles of the improvisatory theatre space, all while dealing with rolling stock, dim lighting and fog. Perhaps to be expected in such a sprawling production, some details were overlooked. (Why click the trigger on a toy gun when you have a perfectly good sound effect?) And nothing happening below the waist could be seen from any but the first row (forcing audience members to frequently stand, compounding the problem), - and in the Grand Guignol, much happens at knee or even floor level. Didn't anyone check sight lines? Things like this unjustly paint the company with an arrogance I'm sure it does not have.
A repertory lighting plot was adapted by Avi Soroka in a simple and effective way - the task made difficult by having to work with a large projection screen which dominated the first third of the evening. Betsy Karic and Aliza Shane provided Sound and Props; The best sound of the evening was an eery and gentle ambience during the madhouse sequence. Incidental music was well chosen; (but I feel the "Dance Macabre" would have been better saved for the finale only - where it worked perfectly.)
Kelly Markus was a strongand always poised Bel-imperia. We had suitably powerful villains: Michael Schwendemann as a consistent Balthazar, and Cameron McElyea as a taught, controlled, Lorenzo - both masters of diction and presence. Cynthia Granville played the Queen, Lorenzo's and Bel-imperia's aunt, with style. A welcome discovery: Ron Dizon as the page had total commitment to his character, and generated what could only be called a controlled effervescence. (He had so much pent up energy he seemed in danger of exploding.)
At the production's grounding center was Steve Abbruscato as the vengeful father Hieronimo. His early explanation to the court of his grief as "A thing of nothing- the murder of a son or so" was marvelously controlled understatement. Later, he brilliantly paced his vengeance vow, and the chill in his voice at "I'll be friends with all of you..." was palpable. His final monologue, wherein this "hopeless father of a hapless son" reveals all, was the tour-de-force it was meant to be: grandly declaimed, artfully scaled, and perfectly paced. Abbruscato brought all his art to bear, and for a few precious minutes the entire theater was elevated.