Once again, this week’s Wall Street Journal drama column was filed from the road. It’s all about Shakespeare & Company, based in Lenox, Massachusetts:
In recent weeks I’ve been checking out regional productions of the plays of Tom Stoppard, whose “Coast of Utopia” trilogy dominated the New York theater scene this past season. Perhaps not coincidentally, Shakespeare & Company decided to have its first go at a Stoppard play this summer, and shrewdly picked one of his lesser-known works. “Rough Crossing” is Mr. Stoppard’s 1984 English-language performing version of “Play at the Castle,” a Ferenc Molnár comedy best known outside the author’s native Hungary in a 1926 adaptation called “The Play’s the Thing” that was written by none other than P.G. Wodehouse….
“Rough Crossing” is first and foremost a farce, meaning that it requires a combination of flawless timing and flamboyant physicality. Accordingly, Kevin G. Coleman, the director, has whipped his six-person cast into a veritable frenzy of laugh-getting. Not since the Peccadillo Theater Company’s Off Broadway revival of “Room Service” have I seen such manic energy expended to such potent effect….
The fun thing about repertory theater is that it allows you to see a troupe of gifted actors in more than one play–sometimes in a single day. Mr. Ingram, Jason Asprey and LeRoy McClain, all of whom made me laugh myself silly in “Rough Crossing,” changed costumes and left me spellbound a few hours later in Joe Penhall’s “Blue/Orange,” a three-hander that is as different from “Rough Crossing” as…well, as blue is from orange.
Mr. Penhall’s play, which was first seen in London in 2000 and has since been making the rounds of American regional theaters, is that rarest of rarities, a nominally political play that steers scrupulously clear of crude propagandizing….