Close your eyes and imagine a world full of divas. The Love Street Theatre production of An Evening with Shakespeare's Women offered all the fun scenes featuring female roles without having to sit through all the other stuff, all in a little under two hours flat. Not unlike a musical concert where all of your favorite artists sing your favorite songs, this band of mighty minstrels took the very best words of playwright William Shakespeare and made them sing. (Oh, you can open your eyes now).
The show opened with a bare stage to a scene between Adriana (Donna Stearns) and Luciana (Janna Rosenkranz) in Comedy of Errors. These two actresses had the difficult job of setting the style of the evening's presentation. The show was performed with no real costume changes (which worked) and felt very much as if the audience had accidentally walked in on an advanced acting class.
What Halpern intended became clearer when the majestic Rachel Russell walked onto the stage to portray Portia in a scene from The Merchant of Venice. Later in the second act, Halpern wisely placed her in a moving scene from the lesser-known play Coriolanus, where she played Volumnia. The actress possessed a voice so full of passion that her onstage presence was reminiscent of a night at the opera. Russell had "solo actress" stamped on her forehead, as was also evident when she shared the stage in a scene from As You Like It at the show's end.
Clara Barton Green entered next as Miranda in The Tempest and painted the lovely scenario of the young woman in love under the watch of her father. She showed a definite change in her body language and delivery when she later entered as Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Her last words in her monolog from As You Like It were adorable.
Jane Stewart Fuentes entered next as the teary-eyed Hermione in The Winter's Tale. The clarity of her acting was showcased well in her portrayal of Viola in Twelfth Night. The skillful Rosenkranz, the winner of most of the audience laughter that night, joined her as Olivia.
The first act closes with an intense scene from Richard III, featuring Letty Ferrer as Queen Margaret, Stearns as a regal Duchess of York, and Halpern as Queen Elizabeth.
The single most entertaining selection was Stearns's fiery portrayal of Kate in Taming of the Shrew. This actress utterly transformed her hair, rhythm of speech, and body language when she entered a few scenes later as the stately Gertrude in Hamlet. Stearns was marvelous and mischievous.
The production also included scenes from Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and of course, Henry VIII.
Cyrus Newitt did an excellent job with lighting design, which was noticeable in all of Russell's scenes. Beryl Armistead artfully performed lights and sound (the latter a soundtrack of music from Shakespeare's era).
Making Shakespeare's comedy and humanity understandable to modern ears was achieved by all of the actresses (even though the evening could have been about two or three scenes shorter). It is to be hoped that Halpern's production will kick and fight to make itself more noticeable in more varied venues this summer, when future lovers of Shakespeare abound. This is a show that deserves to be seen.
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Copyright 2003 Jade Esteban Estrada