— Natural Theatricals
By Ronnie Ruff
Natural Theatrical’s mounting of a new translation of Phoenician Women is a must see for anyone wanting to see how to make use of every bit of space a venue has to offer. The auditorium at the Masonic Temple in Alexandria is a grand ornate structure that seems vast for such a small company. Bob Bartlett who directs this classic story has his actors speaking to you from every corner of the vast space, making it seem so much smaller and intimate as a result. The sound design and sound effects by Todd Edwards are a perfect match for the tragic themes of this play and give it a somewhat spooky feel.
A classic story of war and the age old questioning of its morality and usefulness, Phoenician Women succeeds in drawing you in to its story but ultimately loses its focus with a script that becomes tedious. Director Bartlett does what he can but by plays end the tragedy is not so much the story but instead Carl Mueller’s translation.
There are a few actors that stand out in Mr. Bartlett’s production that deserve mention. Manolo Santalla is the gem of this show. When he is on stage the production is crisp and interesting. His stage presence jaunty and vibrant. Cherie Weinart (Jocasta) gives a satisfying performance as well and John Tweel as Kreon is stellar. Natural Theatricals takes a step or two forward by first bringing in Mr Bartlett for this show and second for selecting some very good actors for the roles in this Greek classic.
The sound design for this show is amazing. Recorded in outer space this NASA recording fits this material perfectly. Sound Designer Todd Edwards and Bartlett both had heard and loved the sounds when they heard them on an NPR broadcast. The set design is simple but effective and as mentioned before it is Bartlett’s use of the entire space that makes the set design truly work. Costumes were a mish mosh and I was confused by seemingly appropriate gowns on the women while some of the male actors were in costume and others seemed to be dressed in street clothes.
Natural Theatricals and Mr. Bartlett are able to take this new translation of Phoenician Women farther than it should go. In closing the reasons for seeing this show are its wonderful use of the space and its mystical sound design along with the performance of Manolo Santalla.