Tuesday, August 9, 2011

RESTORATION • St. Louis Shakespeare

Ah, the class system.  It never really goes away, does it?  Whether you're in 18th century England or 21st century America, injustice is a timeless subject that Edward Bond considers in RESTORATION, currently on stage at the Grandel presented by St. Louis Shakespeare.
Michael Brightman (Lord Are) and Nicole Angeli (Ann).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber
Okay -- so first we've got the rakish Lord Are (Michael Brightman), powdered wig, makeup and all, who needs to find a woman of means (seeing as how he's pissed away all of his own money), and self-absorbed Ann Hardache (Nicole Angeli), a wealthy yet common woman in search of a title.  Naturally, a marriage is arranged between the two, even though they seem to abhor each other.  If there were a preening contest between these two, I’m really not sure who would win.  Then, on the "lower class" side, we've got Bob (Luke Lindberg), Lord Are's footman, married to Rose, a black servant.  When Ann ends up dead at the breakfast table (through a very amusing set of circumstances), Lord Are pins this accidental murder on Bob.  Are convinces Bob that even though he has been jailed, because of his association with the higher classes, Bob will be pardoned.  Poor Bob is gullible enough to believe him, but his wife Rose doesn’t believe it for a second (you know...  she's black, and knows better) and tries in vain to remove the wool from the eyes of the low-born – wool placed there by the high-born.
Luke Lindberg (Bob),  Nicole Angeli (Ann)
and Michael Brightman (Lord Are).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber
The comedy in the first act sets up an almost 180 degree turn in the second, where the play slows a bit, and things get grim.  And a bit didactic at times.  There are intervals when a character will take center stage and address the audience about the social ills and injustices of the day.  This is where Bond's commentary on the class system becomes piercing.  Bob’s wife Rose does manage to wrangle a written pardon from Lord Are’s mother (Gwynneth Rausch), but then Are gets his hands on it, and it is unwittingly destroyed by Bob’s mother (Donna Weinsting).  Yeah.  It’s pretty effed up.
Donna Weinsting (Mother)
and Delisa Richardson (Rose).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber
It was a little hard for me to get my head around certain parts of this one (Brechtian type things admittedly tend to frighten me…), but as is typically the case with St. Louis Shakespeare, the cast, skillfully directed by Milt Zoth, was strong and the production was very well done.  Michael Brightman was superb at the helm as Lord Are and Nicole Angeli’s facial expressions as Ann Hardache were priceless.  The scenes involving these two provide most of the hilarity in the first act and were my favorites.  There were also strong performances by Luke Lindberg as Bob, Delisa Richardson as Rose and Donna Weinsting as Bob's mother.  The rest of the cast was very nicely rounded out by Bradley J. Behrmann, Tim Kidwell, Eric White, Kimberly D. Sansone, Gwynneth Rausch and Brittni Lombardo.
Gwynneth Rausch (Lady Are)
and Delisa Richardson (Rose).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber

Patrick Huber’s lighting followed the action and intensity wonderfully, and Cristie Johnston designed the lovely set. The lavish costumes by Wes Jenkins were beautiful -- Lady Are’s get-up alone was worth the price of admission.  Only one more weekend to see this one!
Written by Edward Bond
Directed by Milt Zoth
Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square
through August 14 | tickets: $15 - $25
Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Thursday at 7:30pm, Sundays at 2pm
Kimberly D. Sansone (Mrs. Wilson), Delisa Richardson (Rose),
Luke Lindberg (Bob), Bradley J. Behrmann (Frank),
Nicole Angeli (Gaoler) and Eric White (Parson).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber
Michael Brightman (Lord Are), Luke Lindberg (Bob), Bradley J. Behrmann (Frank), Nicole Angeli (Ann), Tim Kidwell (Hardache), Eric White (Parson), Donna Weinsting (Mother), Kimberly D. Sansone (Mrs. Wilson), Gwynneth Rausch (Lady Are), Delisa Richardson (Rose), Nicole Angeli (Gaoler) and Brittni Lombardo (Messenger).
Costume design by Wes Jenkins; scenic design by Cristie Johnston; lighting design by Patrick Huber; stage manager, Amy J. Paige.

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