The Apple Cart is a wry political satire by George Bernard Shaw, which Theater Ten Ten respectfully revived. The production was vibrant and passionate; however, Shaw's writing is exceedingly intellectual and dense. Thus, while the production was engaging and enjoyable, it required much concentration and attention.
The plot of The Apple Cart concerns a monarch who is assaulted by his elected cabinet. They feel that the king is too meddlesome and threaten to resign if he does not sign an ultimatum, which in effect would turn him into a powerless figurehead. Either way, the king would be doomed, without a cabinet or without power; his conundrum is the play's catalyst.
What follows is political debate, as many sides and problems are discussed and revealed. Added to the commentary on politics is a brief interlude on marriage and adultery, as well as a scene with an American ambassador mocking full democracy and capitalism.
Shaw's insight is clear and the picture he paints of politics' problems is adept and prophetic, especially considering when he wrote it. The play is witty and dry, however, and there are no guffaws and few stinging one-liners. The language is verbose but stimulating. The play has a slow start but builds as it continues.
Despite the play's challenges, director David Scott kept the play moving and interesting. He assigned different dialects to the cast, presenting the distinct classes surrounding the king. His staging kept the audience on its toes, much like a tennis match -- pitting the king in one corner against his rivals in the other.
The outstanding ensemble was engaging and tight. Nicholas Martin-Smith was especially notable as King Magnus -- he delivered his long arguments with charm and energy; he embodied the affable, clever monarch. Also of note was Paula Hoza, serving double duty as the Postmistress General and the Queen. Haza's laugh permeated the stage, and she charismatically captured the audience's attention.
Kristin Foti's set depicted the chess-like ambiance by creating a black-and-white checkered pattern on the floor and each chair. Vivianne Galloway's costumes were adequately understated and period. George Gountas's lighting design amply captured the different moments of the show with different intensities. Annalisa Loeffler did an outstanding job coaching the distinct, diverse English dialects.
Overall, The Apple Cart was a divine production of an overtly intellectual play. It would not disappoint anyone in the mood for serious, political contemplation.
(The rest of the enchanting ensemble included Damian Buzzerio, Andrew Clateman, Elizabeth Fountain, Ron Sanborn, David Tillistrand, and Cristiane Young.)
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Copyright 2005 Seth Bisen-Hersh