UVM production of "Compleat Female Stage Beauty" is a must-see

The current production at UVMs Royall Tyler Theatre -- Compleat Female Stage Beauty by Jeffrey Hatcher -- is a must-see in my book. I attended the second performance last Thursday evening, February 21. The material is fascinating. When Charles II returned to England after the darkness of the 16 years under Oliver Cromwell and the Parliament -- a reign that stamped out theater among other things -- the theaters reopened. When they first re-opened, it was business as usual: males taking all of the roles, a traditional aspect of theater. It appears that by backing their mistresses, some of whom wanted to be actresses, women began to appear in plays. Further (and apparently) Charles, smitten by Nell Gwynn, passed a law that forbade males to play the female roles in plays, which definitely ended the tradition of all male theater. The play documents the fall of just such a male who played all the female roles en travesti and the effect of this change within the theater upon his personal life. Sara E. Carleton directed the production. I have been a fan of Carleton, particularly as an actress totally adept at comedy of manners. I have noted through the years since she joined the Department of Drama faculty that she has communicated to the students with varying degrees of success, this very subtle style -- even when encompassing pratfalls and all manner of slapstick. I think the essence of this style is taking one's character seriously, overt mannerisms and all. With that concept in mind, I am able to report that her degree of success with this cast is amazing! Adam Yeager Gould plays Edward Kynaston, an actor who has specialized in women's roles. His is a performance that would grace any stage. Never once does he fall into excess, even when he is using the broad gestures that were commonplace in that era. He is quite a serious, fully involved actor, and never once moving out of character, never letting the fabulous costumes lure him into excess, never letting an inflection or a gesture disturb his characterization. In a rather large cast I should like to single out the acting of Richard Hutchinson as Thomas Betteron; Hayley Smith as Maria; x Edward Nagel as Charles II; Jana Pollack as Margaret Hughes; Nick Hapshe as Samuel Pepys; and -- with reservations -- Jenn Staples as Nell Gwynn and Bretton John Reis as Sir Charles Sedley. The balance of the cast was above average, which made the whole production even in its impact. The costumes were superlative -- there is no other possible word for it. Martin A. Thaler designed the costumes, and he and his work crew must've worked double and treble time to create them. The wigs were perfection down to the last curl. With regard to the sets, I once again considered them to be exactly what they needed to be -- theatrical and large-scaled (this impression was enforced by my having recently seen an early silent French version of Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher directed by Jean Epstein and photographed by Luis Bu__, which similarly employed vast and suggestive space). Lighting by John B. Forbes was equally illuminating of the play. When an audience has the privilege of seeing such disparate forces come together in such a unified vision, it gets to peep into what theater can be -- moving, incident-filled, grand-gestured, but never (no never) even skirting the excessive and inappropriate. That's what this latest production at UVM has provided for its audience. Tickets and info: 656-2094. The Lane Series
A fairly unique concert took place Friday evening, February 22, at UVM's Redstone Recital Hall. This was the appearance of oboist Thomas Gallant and pianist Pedja Muzijevic in a dual recital. It was a very relaxed feeling that both performers brought to the stage, but one that was totally musically alert. There was a real feeling of camaraderie during the pre-concert talk hosted by Jane Ambrose, The Lane Series President and the two performers (in addition to being a performing musician, Gallant also manages other musicians careers and Muzijevic has appeared three times at UVM, twice on The Lane Series). The discussion ranged from the hazards of playing the oboe (mainly the care and nurturing of the double reed), the physical instrument he chooses to play and the different styles of playing and why they chose to present it as a 19th-century soir_ with people stepping forward to participate in a home. This elicited not only some terrific bravura playing on the part of both artists, as well as some unusual repertoire, it brought the audience closer to the performers. The concert was accompanied by musical and other observations during the concert itself. Gallant is an impeccable musician, one who apparently evaluates his performance as it goes along, and who sometimes demonstrated this by his demeanor. He had nothing to be concerned about. His technique is equal to everything that he chose to perform, showing a uniformity of sound from the lowest to the highest pitches. He clearly was able to differentiate between staccato and legato phrases even when they followed helter-skelter one another. The Adagio and Allegro by Robert Schumann and the Sonata for oboe and piano, opus 166 of Camille Saint-Saens were works with which it was good to be acquainted. Muzijevic played some musical curiosities -- for example, late Franz Liszt, which was exemplified by two brief works, the more curious being the Bagatelle sans tonalit_ He followed those two lists pieces with a work by Colin Nancarrow, Tango?, which he said they did one hand against the other on two juxtaposed lines, neither of which was more than simultaneous, and never metered the same. After hearing it, I agreed with that question mark in the title. Two of the jewels that Muzijevic played were the Liszt transcription of Isoldes Liebestod and Chopin's Polonaise- fantasie, Op. 61. The clarity of the inner voices in particular in the list, and the brilliance of the polonaise wrapped in a fantasie were highly appreciated by the audience, as indeed they deserved to be. It was a most auspicious concert for a weatherwise difficult evening, and the radiance of the music bore me all the way home, savoring what I had heard as I moved back into the reality of a February Vermont night. Briefly Noted
Oni Buchanan, pianist and poet will be at UVM for tonight's Colin on March 4 at 5 p.m. she will give a reading of her poetry (please contact www.uvm.edu/~english for more information about the reading) and on Wednesday, March 5, she will perform a concert at the Redstone Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. The admission to the concert is free, a gift from the UVM Lane Series (to check time or any other information about the concert, call 656-4455. The Vermont Stage Company will open its production of Richard Greenbergs Three Days of Rain on March 5 at FlynnSpace. Artistic Director Mark Nash calls it a romance and a little gem of a story. Information and tickets through the Flynn box office, 86 Flynn. The Vermont Symphony Orchestra presents its next Masterworks concert on Saturday, March 8 at The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts. It will feature the Sibelius Violin Concerto, Robert Schumann's Fourth Symphony, and a new work by composer-in-residence David Ludwig. Attention all people interested in theater: The Vermont Association of Theatres and Theatre Artists (VATTA) will hold auditions and interview technical aspirants on Saturday, March 1. The event will take place at the McCarthy Arts Center on Saint Michael's College campus in Colchester Vermont. For information, contact Veronica L__ at 862-2287. This is their 20th annual event, and participants will be viewed by approximately 20 different theater companies, ad agencies reps from area film/commercial/video and indie producers. Mark that date!

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