Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Lion in Winter : Actors Theatre of SF : A Failure of Tone and Talent

Goldman’s searing expose of royal dysfunction was a critical hit, if not a commercial one, when it was produced in the ‘60s. It’s not hard to imagine how the strange marriage of familial depravity and acerbic wit would strike a chord with the iconoclastic mood of the time.

But offering a modern sensibility to a drama set in a medieval historical context can be a daunting challenge. Should it be an outright satire; or perhaps the material can be approached with shades of grey humor, if not entirely black? And there’s always a danger that placing too much emphasis on the comedy would devolve into something reminiscent of Mel Brooks.

The key, then, would be too commit to a tone that makes sense and play it for all it’s worth. This, of course, requires consummate skill, especially when the actor is being asked to complement the tragic machinations of the plot with dialogue that often borders upon self-mockery. This high wire act could be fatal if the performer does not achieve the perfect equilibrium.

And there’s the rub of this production. It’s obvious that the process of developing a coherent intonation was sorely lacking any good creative ideas. That basic flaw, however, does not excuse the paucity of talent on display among an aimless cast desperate for a compass. A failure of such proportions is uncharacteristic of Actors Theatre. ‘Tis a pity.

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