Monday, May 23, 2011

Review - Summer (Turtle Shell Productions)

By Byrne Harrison
Photos by John Cooper

Edith Wharton's novella, "Summer," is a fascinating look at the limited world facing a young woman of no means and little education at the turn of the 20th Century. I can fully understand why playwright Martin M. Zuckerman and director John Cooper wanted to bring it to the stage. Zuckerman's adaptation highlights some of the many skills of Turtle Shell Productions, however, the play itself seems too large for the relatively simple story it is telling. The result is beautiful and well-acted, but in need of some editing to focus the drama and bring it to its full potential.

Charity (Christiane Seidel) is sweet young girl in a very small town. Although she serves at the town's librarian, she's out of her depth. When a dashing young architect, Lucius (John P. Keller) comes to town in order to research a book he's writing, it's no wonder the Charity is fascinated. As that fascination turn into something more, she finds herself at odds with her mentor Mr. Royall (Mark Mikulski), a lawyer with a love of liquor and an eye for Charity. Although he hopes to marry her, she gives herself to Lucius, with the understanding that she will be his bride. As they say, the course of true love never did run smooth, and Charity finds herself alone, pregnant and with very few options.

As the points of this love triangle, Seidel, Keller and Mikulski excel. Seidel's Charity is sweet and naive, but with a desire to learn and grow that is awakened by Lucius. Keller cuts a dashing figure as Lucius, who comes across less as a cad and more as someone unable to stand up for what he wants. Mikulski's Mr. Royall is outstanding - strong and strident when playing Royall's drunken rages, he truly plumbs the depths of his character when showing Royall's contrite and humble side. His final moments with Seidel are some of the plays most tender and well-played performances.

While the rest of the cast performs well, Pauline Walsh deserves particular praise as Royall's housekeeper. With strong comic timing, she often steals the scenes she appears in.

Production values are outstanding, with Kyle Dixon's versatile set leading the way. Christian DeAngelis does an excellent job with his subdued lighting, complimented by Jason Craigs' video and projections. A. Christina Giannini's early 20th Century costumes are superb.

Although director John Cooper does his best to keep the play flowing, there are some slow points along the way. Some judicious cutting would have led to a tighter production, but Summer is still worth a look.

By Martin M. Zuckerman
From the novella by Edith Wharton
Director: John Cooper
Assistant Director: Jason Michael Perugia
Stage Manager: Morgan Watters
Scenic Designer/Painter: Kyle Dixon
Lighting Designer: Christian DeAngelis
Sound Designer: Josh Millican
Costume Designer: A. Christina Giannini
Projection/Video Designer: Jason Craigs
Props Master: Paulina Cooper
Carpenters: Brian Aloysius Kafe, Jason Slack
Publicist/Press Agent: Hilary Russo
Box Office Manager: Paulina Cooper

Featuring: Rebecca Fey Collins (Ally), Lydia Gladstone (Dr. Merkle), Carolyn Gordon (Miss Hatchard), Michael Jay Kaplan (Liff/Evangelist), John P. Keller (Lucius), Daren Kelly (Mr. Miles), Mark Mikulski (Mr. Royall), Brooke Novak (Love), Katy O'Donnell (Julia/Orma/Singer), Christiane Seidel (Charity), Tiffany Simms (Annabel), Pauline Walsh (Verena)

Closed May 15th

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