"Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen. Prepare to be mezmerized, electrified, and transported to another time and place for the next two hours" is what the pre-show announcement should proclaim. Director and co-conceiver, Tony Speciale, has amassed a mightly arsenel of high drama in this haunting play presented at the Classic Stage Company, Unnatural Acts, filling it with intergue, evidence, tension, speculation, passion, and betrayal.
The play, inspired by the true story of the Secret Court of 1920 at Harvard University that attempted to rid the institution of "homosexualism" after the suicide of one of its students, Cyril Wilcox, opens on an elegantly, warmly and purposefully lit, darkly-hewn wooden-clad stage where we meet each of the very handsome and well clothed upper-crust Harvard boys attached to the scandal and begin our journey into their intricate, delicately balanced lives filled with intelect, innuendo, pride, double-talk, and deeply-guarded secrets and we follow them to their ultimate demise by play's end. Each of the elvevn young actors brings an etherial and haunting presence to the stage under what I can only categorize as the superb directorial and choreographical choices of Mr. Speciale. Actors Jess Burkle, Joe Cumutte, Frank De Julio, Roe Hartrampf, Roderick Hill, Max Jenkins, Brad Koed, Jerry Marsini, Devin Norick, Will Rogers, and NickWestrate form a perfect union, an ensemble cast in the truest sense of the word. Amplifying thier fine performances was lighting and lighting effects by Natalie Robin and sound design and the subtle and supremely effective sound effects by Christian Frederickson.
I am torn between screaming from the mountain top that this play, cast intact, should be moved to Broadway and the thought that a Broadway house would most surely destroy the intimacy and power of the show. Unnatural Acts is a an evening of compelling, well-written, well-acted, well-directed story-telling that lured me in, captured and held my attention, and, most importantly, kept me thinking about it and discussing it long afterwards. Now that's powerful theatre!