Women rule. We can say this now, but try expressing this sentiment in
16th century England. Even the strongest of women had difficulty asserting
their power in such a male dominated society.
There has been a recent revival of English historical dramas where the
lives of strong women have been examined. The movies Elizabeth and Shakespeare
In Love are prime examples. Add to this list the play Mary Stuart by Dacia
Maraini, being performed at the Reeve Theatre. The play explores the lives
of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart, "two absolute monarchs who in
spite of their political and religious difference" are torn between
their femininity and the duties they must fulfill "within traditionally
male public roles."
The production of Mary Stuart has many wonderful aspects, but can only
be enjoyed if you can overlook the play’s weaknesses. The play is unorthodox
in having only two actors, Vicki Stroich and Katherine Anne Sanders, who
together play five characters. The story progresses as the scenes focus
back and forth from one queen to the other. The acting throughout the play
is extremely good, especially Stroich, who depicts Elizabeth I as a witty,
strong and complex woman, faced with choosing between the wants of the public
and her own desires.
Both actors are very passionate, and the variety of characters they have
to play is a definite challenge. When done well, Stroich and Sanders light
up the stage and show off their dramatic talents.
Aside from the two queens, the secondary characters are not as well defined;
there is little differentiation between them, and at times they can become
quite monotonous. Both actors are also on stage from begining to end, and
this too can add dullness to the play.
The biggest weakness though, is how the play demands the audience know
a lot about English history. Although a lot of the information is given,
if the audience misses any of it, the play can become very confusing. Apart
from the dialogue, little action takes place on stage, making the play wordy
and long, especially in the first act. The second act is more lively-especially
the powerful ending.
The technical aspects of Mary Stuart are surprisingly good and quite
noticeable. Dramatic elements such as lighting can go unnoticed in a play,
but in this case, it is hard not to recognize the subtle difference and
beauty the lighting creates throughout the production. It is incredibly
well done and adds a lot of atmosphere to the scenes.
Mary Stuart runs from Mar. 24 to Apr. 3 at the Reeve Theatre. Although
only an hour and a half, excluding intermission, the play tends to drag
on with wordy and at times tiring dialogue. However, if you can get past
this, the acting is definitely something to take in. If you do decide to
see the play, but then suddenly realize that it’s just not your cup of tea,
you can always create more action by standing up and shouting: "Off
with your head!" At least you’ll sound as though you know what you’re