October 31, 2008
TT: An old house made new
Today's Wall Street Journal drama column is devoted to a pair of shows playing in alternating repertory at Cleveland's Great Lakes Theater Festival, Into the Woods and Macbeth. Both are excellent, while the company's new theater, which just opened, is sumptuous. Here's an excerpt.
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When Noël Coward, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne wanted to tune up "Design for Living" before bringing it to Broadway in 1933, they opened the show at the Hanna Theatre in downtown Cleveland. Theaterwise, that's about as historic as it gets. Now this grand old building, built in 1921, has been taken over by the Great Lakes Theater Festival and remodeled in order to make it suitable for modern repertory theater. The result is one of the most satisfying theatrical renovations ever to be undertaken in this country. The "new" Hanna, designed by the Cleveland firm of Westlake Reed Leskosky, has been turned from a 1,421-seat Broadway-style house into an intimate 548-seat thrust-stage theater whose seating and public areas flow together seamlessly, thus encouraging playgoers to come early and use the Hanna as a meeting place. At the same time, the charmingly elaborate architectural detail of the original interior has been preserved. I can't imagine a more pleasing place in which to see a show....
I've seen quite a few productions of "Into the Woods," starting with the Broadway premiere in 1987, and this one ranks close to the top of the list. The cast is very strong, with Jodi Dominick giving a top-notch performance as the Baker's Wife, at once richly funny and vibrantly physical. Joanna Gleason, who created the role on Broadway 21 years ago, was and is a tough act to follow, but Ms. Dominick makes an impression all her own. Victoria Bussert's staging is no less impressive in its clarity and drive...
I don't want to spoil any of director Charles Fee's surprises, so I'll say only that he's given us a Japanese-style "Macbeth" that evokes the stylized rituals of Noh theater. The stage is flanked by a pair of costumed percussionists who provide thunderous accompaniment for the play's horrific occurrences. Instead of buckets of blood, we get long, fluttering ribbons of red silk, while the three Weird Sisters are dressed as bats on crutches, a deliciously jolting touch. Gage Williams, who designed the set, and Star Moxley, who devised the costumes, deserve co-equal credit with Mr. Fee for the success of this "Macbeth." Rarely have I seen a Shakespeare production in which staging and décor were fused so indissolubly....
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Read the whole thing here.
Posted October 31, 2008 12:00 AM