Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Our Leading Lady

One minute you're laughing - the next minute President Lincoln is shot! This play has a little of everything - perhaps to its own detriment.

Kate Mulgrew plays the powerful and accomplished Laura Keene who shows up at the Ford Theater in Washington DC to take charge of a "rag-tag" theater company with the ulterior motive of actually taking over the theater itself. She plans to earn this privilege by filling the house and bringing prestige back to the theater on the opening night. And with President and Mrs. Lincoln in attendance how could anything go wrong?! (Well, you know the rest)

Maxwell Caulfield, Barbara Bryne, and Kristine Nielsen comprise the major players in the theater troupe. Their characters all have marginal talent and are nothing "big". Throw in a young (and very cute) stage manager learning the ropes in the theater, who seems to have an inappropriately ultra religious upbringing (along with a closeted curiosity for men) and you have all the ingredients for some laughs and some serious drama.

The back story of how President and Mrs. Lincoln came to be at the theater that night is a clever idea and the use of this historic event as the fabric for the story being told is a credit to Charles Busch's overall creative talents.

With all those ingredients I didn't feel that either was done so well. The laughs were more chuckles... and the drama didn't exactly evoke tears. Overall the show was longer than it needed to be, but not uncomfortably so. On the bright side, the rotating stage proscenium was clever and the classical piano music at the scene changes was brilliant.