Chibeau

Edmond Chibeau looks at performance and theatre from the avant-garde communication perspective

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Penzance at CRT

Tell your friends about this one!

The Pirates of Penzance
Writer: W.S. Gilbert
Composer: by Arthur Sullivan
Director: Terrence Mann
Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre
7 June – 22 July 2012

What’s a director to do?
If he is given a play that has been flop-proof for more than a hundred years and has a cast that is talented and willing to take direction then what is the director’s job?  The answer that is offered by Terrence Mann in this production of The Pirates of Penzance is that the director can integrate all of the performances into a unified dramatic whole, and then get as granular as possible so that each performance is as nuanced and complex as possible.  From the opening salvo to the curtain calls Mann keeps us interested and attentive.  He knows how a musical is supposed to work. The shared experience and practice of the CRT repertory company gives depth and texture to the interplay among actors.

Children and adults will love this whirlwind production of a Gilbert and Sullivan classic.

Alex Gibson has an astounding face, limbs made of rubber, and an impeccable sense of timing; his tap dancing, a la Irish step dancing, is one of the highlights of show.  He is currently a Junior at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.  See this young performer now and you will be able to say you knew his work before he became famous.

The choreography and movement by Cassie Abate is not only exciting to watch but also reveals character and moves the plot forward.  The Dance and Musical Theatre Program at Texas State University will be getting a movement treasure to head up their program in September.

Diane Phelan’s operatic voice, compelling acting, and graceful movement have been seen before at CRT and she continues to grow as a performer and a musician.

Sean Martin Hingston does it all.  To say that he can act sing and dance would be to undersell his talents.  For all his charisma he still fits into the larger ensemble.  He is an exceptional performer but he uses his considerable talents to serve the larger show.

Lynn McNutt is a laugh-a-minute Ruth.  “There are the remains of a fine woman about Ruth.”  Her burlesque sexuality is always funny and never inappropriate.  (During the curtain calls she gestures for the handsome men in the audience to “call me.”)

In 1884 Sullivan wrote of his music that, “It has hitherto been word-setting, I might almost say syllable-setting, for I have looked upon the words as being of such importance that I have been continually keeping down the music in order that not one should be lost.”

Seasoned pro, Steven Hayes, who is the very model of a modern Major General, has a great sense of humor and a feel for high camp.  The articulation of the lyrics of some of his songs and patter did not always reach the ears.   Sometimes the syllables that Arthur Sullivan worked so hard to foreground were lost in a blur; no matter, the audience loved him. 

Many of these actors have worked together both at CRT and in other venues.  One of the advantages of a repertory company is that the actors get a chance to know one another and learn each other’s style, timing and approach to interpretation.  In a rep company actors can learn how their style plays against another’s and then use that knowledge to the advantage of the production.  It allows them to give depth of interpretation within a limited rehearsal schedule.  It doesn’t matter if the play is all surface and gloss; any scene between the actors can have depth and detail. CRT not only has actors who have worked together on several productions this season, but have also worked together in the past.

The acoustics of the Harriet Jorgensen are not perfect but the sound reinforcement system is usually excellent.  Opening night the sound reinforcement that is often transparent at CRT was a bit more noticeable than usual.

The exhibit of Women’s “Dress from the Industrial Age” in the Jorgensen Gallery curated by Laura Crow, Director the Costume Design, Department of Dramatic Arts and Curator, at the UConn Historical Clothing and Textile Collection is an eye-opening look at styles of a bygone time.  It is in the gallery attached to the theatre.

On Storrs Road there is a kiosk that lists the productions that are being done by the Theatre program at UConn. It always has a compelling graphic and the name of the upcoming production, but the dates of the production are always too small to read while driving by in a car.  Making the dates on the sign large enough to read from a passing car would make it easier for people to know when a play is opening and how many days they have left to catch the show.

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