Sean Childress & Polina Shafran in Commedia Cannon.
Directed by Erin Leigh Crites
Review by Rachel White
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Rachel White. All rights reserved
Savage Rose presents Commedia Cannon, which, as its title suggests, offers a range of classic monologues, and scenes performed in mask in the classical Commedia style. It introduces some new faces to the theater scene and puts a spin on some more serious works including the “to be or not to be” speech from Hamlet. Some of the individual scenes work well, but I longed for more of the artistic and emotional risk taking that we’re used to from Savage Rose.
Many of the scenes are strong, particularly Tartuffe and the Servant of Two Masters, where the acting feels particularly grounded and the comedy comes naturally out of the language of the scene, even with the exaggerated movements and gestures. There are good performances by Polina Shafran and Sean Childress, who both seem to have a natural connection with the text and commedia itself. Childress has the ability to physically embody each character whether it’s a miserly Pantalone or a young lover.
My primary issue with the show is that it lacks cohesiveness. It is hard to track the arc of the evening, or even a thematic line that would distinguish it as a show rather than a showcase of individual works. As an audience member, it takes a while to settle into a rhythm with any author, particularly a classical author, and I felt that just as I began to grasp the dynamics of a scene it was over. With young performers, the challenge is even greater, as the difficult language and unusual style can get in the way of emotional honesty and thus clarity of storytelling.
The masks are beautiful even with their ridiculously exaggerated features and Ms. Crites knows how to put them to use. Her carefully staged scenes and highly stylized movements give the characters the larger than life theatricality so necessary in commedia, and the actors embrace the full physicality. Crites understands that the mask is more than an exaggerated funny face, but an opportunity for physical and vocal exploration, a freedom from the constraints of conventional theater and conventional life. I enjoyed the mix of commedia against the monologues from Richard III. The insistence on value of silliness even in the face of a harsh world is a theme worthy of more exploration in this work.
December 5-14, 2014 @ 7:30pm
Savage Rose Classical Theatre
At The Alley Theater
633 West Main
Louisville, KY 40202
For tickets contact Thealleytheater.com
[box_light]Rachel White received her MFA in playwriting from the New School for Drama, and her BA in English and Dramatic from Centre College. Her plays have been produced in New York at The New School, the Midtown International Theatre Festival and the American Globe Theater, in Los Angeles at Moving Arts Productions and the Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA. In Louisville, she has had productions at the Slant Culture Theatre Festival, the Tim Faulkner Gallery, and Finnigan Productions. She is a recipient of the Litwin Foundation Fellowship in Playwriting, and was recently a semi-finalist in the Labute New Theater Festival. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, and the Playwrights Gallery in New York.[/box_light]