Review by Danny & Terry Gaisin
The seventeenth century play THE CHANGELING by Middleton & Rowley is arduous to stage, difficult to perform and grueling to watch. Despite the foregoing and being dated, Changeling is still popular enough for TV repetitions; radio broadcasts and – of course -stage representations. Stratford’s (& always SHAW’s) Jackie Maxwell has re-dated it to the pre-WWII practice-session Guerra civil- the Spanish Civil War. However, neither Franco’s right-wing forces nor the Falangists, anarchists, Fascist or Nazis involved in the struggle would have incorporated ‘thou’s or ‘maiden’ references into their vocabulary, even their Spanish substitute. So, time & lines seem anachronistic.
There are two plots in Changeling, the first is a rectangle of an engaged couple; her lover, and a suitor who will (and does) kill for her. The second and subsidiary story is about sexual shenanigans in a nuthouse. Here we have a married seductress who has three admirers who comedically go to ridiculous lengths to do ‘it’ to & with her.
The main storyline deals with Mikaela Davies’ Beatrice-Joanna and her doomed fiancé Alonzo – Qasim Khan whose on-stage time may be short but pivotal. Davies is only a Stratford sophomore but her C.V. is extensive and she certainly exudes the enigmatic allure that could influence a man to slay a friend. The silky dresses of the thirties with their form-fitting cling plus her promissory entreaties might inspire a swain to sublimate the decalogue’s commandments. Award-winning actor Ben Carlson has the stature and dramatic range to carry the plot as his De Flores must do. He is the catalyst around which the play progresses.
Alonzo’s brother Tomaso – played by Rodrigo Bellfuss is another second season-er. It shows, as his alleged determination to find his brother’s executioner is too understated and not convincing. Davies’ real love is Alsemero and Cyrus Lane’s portrayal fails to validate a magnetism the plotline and playwrights defined.
In Bedlam, the resident doctor is ‘nebbishkeit’ Alibius and Michael Spencer-Davis gives the role a perfect reading. He’s not only identifiable, he’s also a type that will be familiar to most audience members. His wife is Isabella. The name derives from Hebrew and means -devoted. As interpreted by the playwrights and Jessica B. Hill has the face, posture and mannerisms that completely negate her baptismal appellation. No wonder, Pedro; Antonio & even Lollio – the doctor’s semi- bouncer has the yens for her. Gareth Potter gives a strong rendering of Antonio’s sham dupe until he’s alone with Isabella. He too, has a sidekick with prisoner Rylan Wilkie’s Pedro. But didn’t see the notorious Franciscus character depicted among the inmates.
Given the constant dialogue, and continual on-stage off-stage parades, watching the Changeling is something of a burden. But seeing the requisite standard of thespian ability needed by every cast-member and the directorial expertise mandatory to stage this commission; enthusiasts of challenging theatre shouldn’t miss this effort.
The CHANGELING is at the Tom Patterson Theatre, (walking distance from the main Festival venue) only until September 23rd.