Saturday, September 01, 2007

"Rough Crossing" - Ultimate Hilarity (in brief --)

That I failed, two or three months ago, to attend Shakespeare&Company's rollicking, clever take on Tom Stoppard's "Rough Crossing" was a major error on my part. The show closes tomorrow, Sunday, Sept. 2 with a 10:30 a.m. performance. Should you seek a couple of diverting hours, should you wish to catch comedy-on-live-stage at its finest, should you have a yen for the Berkshires in the midst of Labor Day Weekend, zip out to Lenox and try to snag a ticket so that you will see the production.

Elizabeth Aspenlieder, that talented, quite deliberately inelegant clown, stars as Natasha Navratalova. An actress with an amazingly gutteral, well-crafted, consistent accent, Natasha is the play the lead in "The Cruise of the Dodo." Her affair with Ivor Fish (Malcolm Ingram) is over.

Joining her for a couple of hours on an ocean liner (the stage seems to tilt back and forth) are Jonathan Croy as Turai, a playwright; Bill Barclay, a composer with a tie-his-tongue-in-knots speech impediment; Jason Asprey as Gal, another playwright who loves to spend time consuming fruit; and LeRoy McClain as Dvornicheck, the steward who manages to consume numerous glasses of cognac intended for others.

Stoppard adapted his work by adapting Ferenc Molnar's "Play at the Castle" with P.G. Wodehouse's "The Play's the Thing."

Confession: I once saw a very different production of "Rough Crossing" which, frankly, did not amuse me. Yes, I was surprised to find myself laughing aloud during the first moment of the S&Co rendering - and forever more.

Much of this has to do with Kevin G. Coleman's direction. Coleman has been with the company since it was founded three decades ago. He is also Director of Education; and an actor; as a coach, he possesses special skills in stage combat and clown. Moreover, he understands people and is catalytic in helping actors to release impulse.
I know -- since he worked, on four separate productions, with students of mine during rehearsals which lead to full productions (three of them Shakespeares).

"Rough Crossing" succeeds because it is downright funny. It depends upon actors who are highly disciplined. Coleman provided framework, context, interpretation, and creative ideas. I would wager my fondest baseball cap that he also challenged them to innovate and push further.

It was a pleasure to sit and watch the farce, a comedic, sometimes gymnastic, highly choreographed collectively splendid effort.; (413) 637-1199

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