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Friedrich Schiller: Maria Stuart

Theater Critics of the JoAnne Akalaitis' production of "Mary Stuart"

at Court Theatre, Chicago


  By Hedy Weiss, theater critic
Elizabeth, the older woman, is assured by her dashing lover that her younger rival, Mary, is not nearly as beautiful as others have reported her to be. But when the two women finally meet there is no denying the truth, or the larger threat that Mary clearly poses. This is, after all, no ordinary competition. It is a climactic moment in a long, psychologically brutal war between female cousins for political, religious and personal legitimacy--and for nothing less than the right to the English throne. And nothing in the natures of these two women, or in the highly unstable, conspiratorial environment in which they live, would ever permit Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, to rule in tandem.
As Elizabeth confesses: "Uneasy lies the throne while she still lives." [...]
Both women, highly intelligent, and in search of both love and power, suffer greatly.
Elizabeth (Barbara E. Robertson) has been forced to suppress her sensuality and cultivate the veneer of the virgin queen, understanding that if she ever fully yields to her heart she will undermine her ability to rule. Paranoid and suspicious, she does not easily confide in those around her, and the few she does take into her confidence betray her.
Mary (Jenny Bacon), has had several husbands and lovers, and her own fair share of scandal. Deeply religious and deeply sensual--with a wild, untrammeled spirit and a fervent faith--she has lost everything, and neither her potent effect on men, nor her appeals to Elizabeth, can save her.
When the two women finally meet--in a scorching scene that never happened historically, but has been brilliantly imagined by the dramatist--they are caught off guard. Mary, flushed and excited, has just celebrated her possible liberation and danced a wild jig; Elizabeth, in full, flashy sporting regalia, has just come from a royal hunt. Neither woman relents; the sparks between them are brilliant, and ultimately deadly. Treachery lies at every turn. The actresses soar. [...]
This production marks Akalaitis' most thrilling and emotionally engaging work to date--and it is acted with operatic boldness as well as with a few, perfectly measured post-modern winks, including the anachronistic snap of Coke cans at moments of high tension, and sudden freeze-frame bits of action that make the audience complicit in the melodrama. [...]
Kaye Voyce's spectacular costumes nearly steal the show with their grand evocation of personality and historical imagery, as well as their nod to the present in terms of space-age materials, runway references and little in-jokes like tricolor pumps for the French noble. And sound designers Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman work their usual magic as well, in this beautifully observed study of the flesh and blood of history.
By Hedy Weiss, theater critic

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company

By Richard Christiansen
After a pop, drama snaps to attention

The scene you're going to remember forever from JoAnne Akalaitis' production of "Mary Stuart" at Court Theatre is the Diet Coke bit.
In the second act of this historical drama, Queen Elizabeth I and three of her advisers discuss the moral and political options open to them in the case of the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots.

Elizabeth, resplendent in gold and black, with a spikey high collar and a pearl choker, sits in the middle. To her left, each dressed in black, except for a huge white ruffled collar, are Lord Burleigh (Bradley Mott, with a ringing voice of doom), who calls for Mary's head on a platter, and Talbot, the aged Earl of Shrewsbury (Maury Cooper, strength showing through his feebleness), who pleads for moderation. To her right, dressed in red and black, his fingers glittering with jeweled rings, is Leicester (Christian Kohn, oily and handsome), the queen's favorite, who will go any way that is to his advantage.
Suddenly, there's the distinctive crack of the pop-top of a can of soda, then another and another and another, as all four characters begin drinking their Coke. Elizabeth demurely sips from a straw; the men chug from the can.
What in the name of Johann Christoph Friedrich Schiller does this have to do with his early 19th Century drama set in England of 1587? Is this an arbitrary intrusion by a director who doesn't trust her material enough to play it straight? Or are those crisp popping sounds intended, as I suspect they are, as a wakeup call to the audience, to remind viewers to pay close attention to the speeches here, because they contain issues of great importance to our times, as well as to those of Elizabeth?
To make the classic contemporary, Akalaitis sometimes overreaches, but always in a striking manner. We may not need the melodramatic silent movie pauses when the death-dealing Burleigh's name is mentioned. We may not need to see Leicester groping under Elizabeth's skirts. We may not need to hear patches of Schiller's dialogue, in Robert David MacDonald's translation, given such a slangy delivery. [...]

Copyright © Chicago Tribune

(zit. n. Court Theatre Chicago, 16.07.02)

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Creative Commons Lizenzvertrag Dieses Werk ist lizenziert unter einer Creative Commons Namensnennung - Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen 4.0 International License (CC-BY-SA) Dies gilt für alle Inhalte, sofern sie nicht von externen Quellen eingebunden werden oder anderweitig gekennzeichnet sind. Autor: Gert Egle/www.teachsam.de