Thursday night was a small scale night of magic at the theater — nothing earthshaking, nothing record-breaking, history-making, award-taking; only full of life, full of fullness, right and light, with programming outside on the steps before the show, a warm full house during, and a well-attended talk-back with all 11 cast members on stage talking about the project, the process, mixing it up with the audience, thinking about faith and symbolism, character, and the great surprise of adding somebody new into the thick of a production. In this case Lise Bruneau has jumped in for 3 performances as Arkadina while our Dame Naomi Jacobson works with Lynn Redgrave and ten other Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship recipients at the Lunt-Fontanne Program Center at their Ten Chimneys estate in Wisconsin. Lise taking over for Naomi was the biggest deal put-in we’ve had during this run, which has included Cesar Guidamez stepping in for Jason McCool’s Yakov for a weekend, and Delia Taylor and Tom Howley stepping in for Nanna Ingvarsson and Brian Hemmingsen while they attended (and officiated at) a niece’s wedding. In each case, the understudy performance was seamlessly integrated into the whole of the production –I was so pleased to be able to see all these different iterations–but last night’s performance by Lise marked the biggest challenge, the highest degree of difficulty, and therefore the biggest of bravura performance of them all. Lise aced it and the cast, and audience, were enthralled. She’s with us for two mainstage productions in the new season and I look forward to her being a mainstay artist with us.
Rushing a bit here as I wish to at least record what’s already passed–which is the luster of a wonderful evening. We received wonderful feedback from the show — here’s one piece of email, from an industry insider:
“I’m glad I was able to get in to see the piece, even if it was just under the wire. I was glad to see Lise in the role – and I thought she was terrific. She’s such a wonderful actress!
Your acting company was terrific, and John Vreeke gave you a great production. I think the strength of the evening, though – and I’m not just blowing smoke up you’re a– — was the adaptation. I thought it was very faithful to Chekhov, while being very much of our time and world. I thought the language had a vitality to it that was quite musical and wonderful to listen to – very rich. And I enjoyed the passion behind the ideas. All-in-all, it was very impressive and a wonderfully mature piece of writing. Congratulations!”
So let’s hear it for warm insider chatter. But more to the point, the talk back after. Loved that cast unity–all of them/us up there–proud of our art and our process, connecting, discussing, savoring the company that we are for only 3 more performances. And yes, as I told the audience while waiting for the actors to emerge from their dressing rooms, and as was confirmed while watching perhaps the most moving rendition of Act IV I’d seen to date, this truly is a production which profoundly bespeaks our artistic identity; This Is Who We Are as a theater that integrates and originates and pays respect and demonstrates plenty of chutzpah too. And yes, as the wonderful Lloyd Rose has new written in her revised piece (of two days ago, just scroll back to July 14), theater will break your heart — or no, that’s what she told me in an email — she thinks this production breaks the heart — and we both concurred that that the truest aspects of theater fill you with joy and heartbreak all at once. How trite and how true and how good it is to feel rich and wistful on a closing weekend. Join us for a final go round, and we’ll drink some champagne when all is said and done come Sunday night.