Stratford Shakespeare Festival

I just got back from 12 wonderful days in Stratford, Ontario.  Ten shows during that time, with the following report card:

stratfordFiddler on the Roof — great production all the way around, with no weak spots, although no standouts, either.  Grade:  A

The Three Musketeers — a good production of iffy material.  People keep trying to adapt this novel, just as they keep trying to adapt The Great Gatsby, and to similar effect.  Stratford’s production values are exemplary, although the set changes on this were unnecessary, and even perhaps a little distracting.  I wasn’t wowed by D’Artagnon, but again, it’s the material.  Dramatically, the second act holds together much better, while the first act is rushed exposition.  Grade:  B (as enjoyable but also as filling as cotton candy)

How to Disappear Completely — a very compelling performance piece incorporating documentary film, stage lighting, and storytelling to examine the right-to-life issue.  Powerful experience, and it leads me to think that we all have a performance piece in us about the most important events of our lives.  Grade:  A (not an A+ as the performer, while a good storyteller, is not a great storyteller.  He is, after all, a lighting designer and documentary filmmaker by profession.)

Measure for Measure — I’d never seen nor read this play before, and it was very different from what I expected.  Updated to post WWII Vienna.  Interesting play, but somehow a bit bland in the final product.  Grade:  B

Mary Stuart — Perfection, start to finish.  Probably the strongest cast of the bunch.  You could also see the director’s hand in it, and he is utterly fabulous.  Grade:  A+

Waiting for Godot —  (Pronounced GOD-oh, for those of you have been pronouncing it incorrectly, like me, all these years.)  Another excellent production.  Grade:  A+

The Thrill — Superb cast, inadequate script for this world premiere.  I believe a reviewer called the plot “inert”.  I second the emotion, and walked out at intermission.  A play in which little happens until just before intermission, and is going to take 1 hour and 20 minutes to do it in doesn’t deserve my attendance.  (Can you tell I feel strongly that contemporary plays should come in at 2 hours with intermission?)  Grade:  C-

Taking Shakespeare — About a college prof tutoring a theatrically challenged student.  Solid script and the student (the same actor who played D’Artagnon) was excellent.  The professor, a big name in Canadian theater, was fine.  Not brilliant — I question a choice or two — but just fine.  And a 2 hour, 5 minute show with a strong plot, I can live with!  Grade:  A

Romeo & Juliet — Didn’t know this play could be boring, but apparently in the right production, it can.  A completely uncharismatic Romeo didn’t help matters, but he had help in earning the grade:  D.  (And I left at intermission on this one, too.  I knew the end, after all.)

Othello — Fascinating staging:  a proscenium stage with a square, raked, rotating platform used to utterly brilliant effect.  Solid, solid cast.  But the fact that I started to cry one minute later when I met my husband in the street took me quite by surprise.  So I guess that despite my fondness for Mary Stuart, I must give the crown to Othello.  Grade:  A++

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