Sunday, December 28, 2014

Review: MARY STUART

By Toby Zinman

Review: MARY STUART

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By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

Despite the austerity of the set-less bare floor, the Philadelphia Artists' Collective's splendid production of Mary Stuart evokes the grandeur of the Elizabethan court.  Schiller's classic drama, written in 1800, is a riveting battle to the death between two powerful queens, Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. 

If you have a taste for opulent costumes (brava! Katherine Fritz) and for thrilling language delivered with passion and precision, don't miss this one!

The 16th century English throne has had much attention lately: we slurped up the TV series, The Tudors, and then the two prizewinning Hilary Mantel novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, both of which were adapted for the stage for the Royal Shakespeare Company and are about to be filmed for the BBC. Mary Stuart picks up the royal story when Protestant Elizabeth  (Krista Apple-Hodge) has kept Catholic Mary (Charlotte Northeast)  imprisoned for eighteen years; she knows that Mary's "death alone can make the Queen secure."

Central to both their lives is the slimy, charming betrayer, the Earl of Leicester (Ross Beschler) who has dared to woo two queens. There are key noblemen (Brian McCann, Nathan Foley, Joshua Kachnycz, Adam Altman, John Lopes) who are partisans of each queen.  Ruthless politics is their very dangerous game.  Scruples are in short supply.

Apple-Hodge is a magnificent Elizabeth, shading her character with  delicacy and finesse: a tiny laugh, a wink, a horrified dropping of the quill with which she should sign Mary's death warrant; she melts with love, she preens with flattery.  Northeast gives us a Mary of great eloquence, who is both fearful and steely, bitter with years of being "immured alive," torn between hope and despair.  The famous central scene, an "accidental" meeting of the two women outside the castle, is superb.

The fine cast is directed by Dan Hodge who moves the characters around the gleaming wood floor as if they were chess pieces. He has elicited stirring performances and brought this rare old play to vivid life.

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Philadelphia Artists' Collective at Broad Street Ministry, 315 S Broad St. Through April 19. Tickets $20. Information: 800) 838-3006 or  www.brownpapertickets.com.

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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