Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Typhoid Mary

Mary Mallon (September 23, 1869 – November 11, 1938), better known as Typhoid Mary, was the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever. She was presumed to have infected 51 people, three of whom died, over the course of her career as a cook. She was twice forcibly isolated by public health authorities and died after a total of nearly three decades in isolation. (Wikipedia)

Last night David and I saw Mark St. Germain's play Typhoid Mary at Barrington Stage 2. It is a dramatic masterpiece about this amazing woman who worked as a cook in several New York homes after coming from Ireland.

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Heading the cast in the title role was Tasha Lawrence, who simply was Typhoid Mary. Her strong performance was the glue that held the whole play together. Angry, sympathetic, loving in turn, she captured all the emotions of this conflicted woman.

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Kevin O'Rourke was excellent as Dr. William Miller, the man who was in charge of her incarceration in one hospital where she was forced to stay out of the public eye.

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Miles G. Jackson was Father Michael McKuen/ Martin Fazier the priest who tried to give her comfort in her incarceration and a fellow sufferer of the disease. He played both parts extremely well.

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Keri Safran played another doctor, Dr. Ann Saltzer, who was not sympathetic to Mary's condition and who, at one point, thought of ending Mary's life with an injection.

Frances Evans was fine in the role of the child Sarah, in whose home Mary cooked and who loved the young girl who died of typhoid fever.

It was an engrossing evening in the theatre. Bravi to the cast and to Mark St. Germain for producing this fine work.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Last night David and I, along with our friends Robert and Larry, saw Chicago Lyric's presentation of Charles Gounod's Faust. It is filled with gorgeous melodies and requires virtuoso singing. Fortunately, Chicago Lyric had a cast that could do both.

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Ailyn Perez as Marguerite sang sensationally. Both in the coloratura 'Jewel Song' and in the more lyric moments she was splendid. A fine singer.

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As Faust, Benjamin Bernheim was equally good with a remarkable top to his voice.

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Edward Parks as Valentin sang with a strong baritone voice that had a wonderful sound. 

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Christian van Horn as Mephistopheles was a very big presence with a very big voice. He couldn't quite produce the three octaves of laughter on high 'f' to low 'f' as Gounod wrote, but was very menacing.

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Annie Rosen as Siebel was a little light vocally but sang her aria well.

The huge chorus, as always, sang very well under the direction of Michael Black. Emmanuel Villaume was the splendid  conductor.

Now we come to the sets and stage direction. A different story. Kevin Newbury was the production designer and Vita Tzykun the set and costume designer.

In a word, I hated it. The stage was overfull of props and screens on which a barrage of images of skeletons, corpses, and crosses ran rampant. It was distracting and had little to do with the opera. This is a part of the current idea that any classic opera has to be completely  overhauled. Had it not been for the great singing, This would have ruined the opera for me.

There was very little movement from either the soloists or the chorus, which aways seemed to be stuffed on the stage. But all the twitching electronics distracted one so much it didn't seem to matter.

But then, I am an old grouch!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Mary Stuart

Last night David and I saw Schiller's play Mary Stuart in a new translation by Peter Oswald at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. 

I saw this play in the Phoenix Theatre production in 1957 in New York. The translation was by Jean Stock Goldstone and John Reich and it was directed by Tyrone Guthrie. It featured Eva Le Galliene as Elizabeth and Irene Worth as Mary. An amazing cast!

The play takes place in the last days of Mary's life just before her beheading at Fotheringhay Castle and includes a fictitious meeting of the two queens which never really happened. 

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In Chicago Shakespeare's production, directed by Jenn Thompson, K.K. Moggie played the role of Mary and Kellie Overbey was Queen Elizabeth. I felt that Ms. Moggie was the stronger actress, but then, her role is much more dramatic and sympathetic. The entire cast was very good but could have used some diction training for the arena stage of the theatre. In this setting it's never a good idea to have actors facing the back wall of the set and expect them to be understood,

Image result for kellie overbey   Kellie Overbey

In both cases Schiller's poetry was changed into prose, which was probably a good idea. Not my favorite evening in the theatre.