(Note: A series of readings of letters from Tennessee Williams leading up to the completion of Streetcar, at Hartford Stage, sheds light on the genius of the dramatist but proves a disappointing substitute for a play that failed to appear. Bearing one of the longest titles in all of dramatic art, Peter Weiss’s play, in its shorter form entitled Marat/Sade, combines surrealist and documentary drama in a multilayered action susceptible of a great range of interpretation. The UMass Amherst Theatre production of Büchner’s eminently adaptable Woyzeck embraces a presentational style to delineate the story of how a common, ordinary soldier inevitably comes to grief.
In a wonderful production by Hartford Stage, Tazewell Thompson enlists the talents of five black actresses to portray the courageous life of Ida B. Wells in Constant Star, a saga of triumph over racial prejudice and the inertia of her own people. Andrei Serban’s A.R.T. production of the classic comedy Lysistrata reinvigorates Aristophanes’ anti-war play by linking it with contemporary issues and events. An effective production of Hellmann’s The Little Foxes appears at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington DC, with a mature Elizabeth Ashley, her days as an ingenue in Barefoot in the Park well behind her, as the strong-willed Regina. The summer of 2002 has brought various delights, chief among them a New Century Theatre production of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, featuring a Lady Bracknell played by Sara Whitcomb, whose slight figure and shrill voice belie her capability of becoming the fearful nemesis blocking Jack’s hopes to marry her determined daughter Gwendolen; Jack Neary’s direction captures the clarity and pace of this indestructible farce. The Gloucester Stage revives Frank Gilroy’s absorbing family drama The Subject was Roses, a Pulitzer prize winner and a stellar example of kitchen-sink realism. The Washington DC Shakespeare Theatre sends its vibrant, very well cast production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing to Hartford Stage, directed by its former artistic director Mark Lamos and enhanced by Lamos’s singular ability to make effective theatrical statements in the service of nuance and subtlety.
The innovation at the center of the Amherst College Department of Theatre and Dance production of Sophie Treadwell’s grim Machinal is the quadruple casting of the chief role of the Woman with four separate actresses, resulting in intriguing but ultimately disappointing results. The talents of Ed Golden as director grace a University of Massachusetts Theatre production of Marivaux’s Love in Disguise, featuring a long-tested method of ringing the changes on pairings of three actors using materials derived from the traditional commedia dell’arte. Edgardo Mine, Hartford Stage’s attempt to present a dramatized version of an original story of kidnapping by David Kertzer, makes for a less than memorable evening in the theatre. The Hungarian director János Szász brings his incisive point of view to Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, in an emphatically physical production that places a high value on vital ensemble playing. An amateur production of The Importance of Being Earnest wins some points and loses others in a Deerfield production by Linda McInerny that its audience responded to uncritically by just loving it.)