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Thursday, 23 September 2010 22:36

Off-Broadway Review: ORLANDO

Written by
Francesca Faridany and David Greenspan in ORLANDO Francesca Faridany and David Greenspan in ORLANDO Photo: Joan Marcus

The Classic Stage Company opened their 44th season with Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, adapted for the stage by Sarah Ruhl.  It has been beautifully rendered by director Rebecca Taichman, choreographer Annie-B Parson and their design team.  The play comes at you in a barrage of information in a short amount of time.  At times the clarity of the story seems to suffer.  Thankfully, Ms. Ruhl's organization of Ms. Woolf's words is sheer poetry.  Woolf’s themes are all there, female oppression, societal forced gender roles and the questioning of their rigid form, but the play feels like you are getting the CliffNotes version.

Orlando is done as part of Classic Stage Company’s multi-year look at novels on stage.  They have previously done readings of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  Orlando is the story of a boy born during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  He decides that he will never grow old.  The play takes place over the course of 400 years, the first two hundred of which Orlando is a male.  He is a lover to the aged Queen Elizabeth I until her death.   After her demise, he takes a lover, Sasha, a Russian beauty who ultimately leaves him for her Russian Embassy cohorts, leaving Orlando heart-broken.  The second 200 years Orlando spends as a female where she is courted by counts and ultimately marries Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine, Esquire.  It’s all very complicated and a lot to convey using a minimalistic approach.

Another weakness for me was the transitions between centuries, they seemed barely perceptible.  Two of the chorus members have lines relating to the coming of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Orlando once refers to horse-less carriages, but there is not a lot to give us a frame of reference to time.

Orlando has an outstanding cast with Francesca Faridany as Orlando, Annika Boras as Sasha and an ensemble of three men.  David Greenspan leads the three men as they play all the secondary roles with Greenspan taking the part of Queen Elizabeth I.  Tom Nelis and Howard Overshown are the other two ensemble members.  The three of them play multiple roles each, both male and female.  Greenspan is hilarious and over-the-top in just about every character he dons (especially love the Queen Elizabeth dress.)

Rebecca Taichman has directed Orlando with a light hand and a fleet tempo.  She seamlessly integrates Ms. Parson’s subtle choreography.  Scenic designer Alley Moyer has created a simple set that consists of a small raised playing area with a square of artificial turf in the center, a small prop castle and a few throne-like chairs.  Lighting designer Christopher Akerlind has beautifully designed this show to intensify the set and direction.  When Moyer, Akerlind and Taichman combine to create the Great Frost and its passing, it is to lovely effect.  Kevin Guyer’s costumes are simple and basic.  

While I can find things to quibble about, Orlando is a titanic undertaking and Ms. Ruhl and her entire team are to be congratulated for tackling this and delivering a glorious, interesting evening at the theatre.  

Orlando is running at the Classic Stage Company through October 17. 866/811-4111 or 212/352-3101.

Additional Info

  • Theatre: Classic Stage Company
  • Theatre Address: 136 East 13th St. New York, NY
  • Show Style: Play
Last modified on Friday, 24 September 2010 08:15