Monday, September 19, 2011

theatre notes. two queens, one throne.

J. and I went to see Mary Stuart at ACT on Sunday afternoon. I'd been looking forward to it ever since I saw the cast list, months back. Anne Allgood I've adored since Rock 'n' Roll a few years back; I met her in the audience at O Lovely Glowworm and she was unfailingly kind and gracious. Suzanne Bouchard I've loved, as I've said countless times before, since 1992. Either one would guarantee my attendance; the thought of the two of them together practically made my heart explode in anticipation. The excitement grew even greater when I saw the rest of the cast, most of them familiar to me.

Somehow I'd missed out on studying Tudor England in school, and I didn't really know much about Mary, Queen of Scots, or even Elizabeth I, or the histories, stories, and myths that surround them. In a way my ignorance made it easier to fall into the story, without the distraction of looking for the seams where truth and fiction are knitted together. All that was left was passion and intrigue, faith and love, desire, hope, doubt, and jealousy...There were audible gasps from the audience at all the dramatic moments - there were a lot of them - and at intermission I turned to J. with my jaw hanging open, unable to utter anything more than "OH MY GOD."

The play was electric. There's no other way to describe it. I've seen a lot of plays this year, and this one stood out - for the energy and chemistry of the cast, the way all the elements fell together into a smoothly polished piece. It was tight. Sometimes there are weak points in an otherwise solid production - a script that feels unfinished, a director who's new to the game, clashing accents that jar the ear, an actor who isn't quite up to the rest of the cast. There was none of that here. The two queens - Allgood and Bouchard - are so brilliant that halfway through, I had the sudden feeling that they could have easily changed places, Anne as Elizabeth and Suzanne as Mary, instead of the other way around. You don't often see that. My heart was still pounding, hours later.

I'll be thinking about this one, for a long time yet.

Mary Stuart is at A Contemporary Theatre through October 9.

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