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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Broadhurst


  Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer/Ph: Sara Krulwich

Truth be told, Mary Queen of Scots never actually met her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, prior to her execution under Elizabeth's decree in 1587. But in Friedrich Schiller's 1800 historical melodrama Mary Stuart, which dramatizes Mary's plight while imprisoned in England, Mary and Elizabeth share a fiery confrontation scene that remains a favorite among classical theater aficionados.

That scene does not fail to please in Phyllida Lloyd's occasionally stirring Broadway revival starring Janet McTeer as Mary Stuart and Harriet Walter as Elizabeth.

McTeer soars as the impulsive and fervently Catholic Mary, whose outrageous passion comes with the price of her head. Walter, on the other hand, is brutally cold and inwardly calculating as Elizabeth, who is instead committed to playing the political game and staying in power.

This production was obviously shipped to New York following its London premiere to showcase the subtle, layered performances of its leading actresses. But whether audiences will also appreciate the rest of the play is questionable.

Peter Oswald's translation is fairly clear, but too verbose and workmanlike, leading to a production that is nearly three hours in length.

The set is pretty much an empty stage, with little other than moody lighting changes to shift the scene. The only special effect occurs at the beginning of the confrontation scene, where Mary Stuart eagerly soaks herself in a rain shower in celebration of being temporarily freed from the prison walls.

The costume design is unusual. While the two queens are dressed in period gowns, the men - all of whom play Elizabeth's couriers - wear modern business suits. This is probably meant to stress the awkward role of women in a man's world, but it actually further spotlights the two female actresses over all the men in the cast, most of whom are guilty of flat line delivery.

Bottom line: one is likely to leave the theater with a feeling of frustration. You've watched some truly great acting, but you kind of wish that you had a better time.



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