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Courageous Theater

It’s a bold move for a community theater to take on “Mary Stuart,” a 19th-century play by Friedrich Schiller about two 16th-century queens, Elizabeth I and her murderous cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, battling for England’s throne. It is a bold move because this is not a natural draw like recent productions of “Blithe Spirit,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “Over the River and Through the Woods.” And it is a bold move most particularly because it must have two savvy and risk-willing actors in very demanding roles that got raves on Broadway. Recently. But Goshen Players is a brave bunch, it seems, and director John Fabiani knows how to move people around a stage and how to get them to believe what they are doing. All he lacks, really, is the guile to sharpen up a script that is too long and too messy. At the heart of much of the drama here is a cold and Protestant Queen Elizabeth (Sandra Waugh) aiming to behead a hot and usurping Catholic, Mary Stuart (Kristen Jacobsen), without stirring up political trouble for herself. Both are unscrupulous, wily and aware they are operating in a world ruled by men. And they share “sex, blood and rank,” Mary tells us, all vital elements used to drub the other. From the outset, though, Mary is at a disadvantage, imprisoned by Elizabeth in the Castle of Fotheringhay. And in the ensuing three hours the two queens display a sometimes unbecoming store of wit, cupidity, style and will. Jacobsen as Mary is flashy and stunning, beautiful to look at and to listen to. And Waugh’s Elizabeth is certainly regal, histrionic and, in the end, cowardly. Their costumes are gorgeous and, as in the Broadway production, possibly to underscore the differences between men and women, only the queens and Mary’s nurse wear Elizabethan dress. The men are outfitted like business types in suits and ties except for the dreadful, and fictional, Mortimer (played sometimes mincingly by Thom Bryda) who appears at his worst moment in a motorcycle jacket and jeans. The sets are appropriately spare and bleak. And the lighting leaves everyone in the dark most of the time, not always on purpose, I suspect. This is a highly theatrical play and production, and in parts, it is engaging, with fine work by John Fabbri as Lord Burleigh and Miles Everett as Leicester. But it is still too long. Too repetitious. Too wasteful of the effort it takes to mount. “Mary Stuart” by Friedrich Schiller runs at Goshen’s Old Town Hall through Oct. 8. For tickets, call 860-491-9988 or go to www.goshenplayers.org. Next week,Compass will review Shakespeare and Company’s “War of the Worlds.”

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