Theater 47 Reviews

Theater 47 is a performing arts venue owned by playwright and director John L. Ruffin Jr. It features top notch talent that rivals downtown broadway shows. Its productions feature original works and adaptations by up and coming playwrights.

In the Old Vic production of The 47th, Bertie Carvel is a tour-de-force. His portrayal is funny, frightening and eerie. The play’s ruminations on democracy’s fragility are well worth the price of a ticket.

The 47th

After stage works that looked at family politics at Christmas and a decaying Middle England, British playwright Mike Bartlett turns his attention to the state of the nation in The 47th. Reuniting with director Rupert Goold (who helmed his runaway hit King Charles III), the satirist imagines what could happen in America two years from now.

The shapeshifting actor Bertie Carvel, who made her name in the stage version of Matilda as Miss Trunchbull, proves his versatility here as Donald Trump in this new political fable, which veers from terrifyingly serious to outrageously comic. His performance transforms the cartoonish villain into an electrifying caricature of Shakespearean chaos.

The story draws inspiration from a range of classic tragedies, including the division of King Lear, the sleepwalking of Macbeth and the galvanic cockiness of Richard III. While some may find it less satisfying than a more forensic analysis of Harris, Biden and Ivanka Trump, The 47th is a wildly entertaining reminder that politics is all about power.

King Charles III

Mike Bartlett’s “future history play” is a splendid provocation. It imagines that shenanigans — albeit serious ones — are afoot in Buckingham Palace as Charles (Tim Pigott-Smith) fills dynamically a strictly ceremonial role and chafes at the press’ intrusion into his personal life. When he refuses to give his assent to a bill passed by Parliament that could damage the freedom of the press, the king’s decision sets off a chain reaction involving a tank parked on the palace lawn and civil unrest.

Tim Pigott-Smith delivers a masterful performance as Charles, who is plagued by his own sense of duty and a king sized ego and self importance that everyone else can only mock. But he is joined by a solid cast including Camilla, the queen; William, next in line to the throne; Kate Middleton, his wife; and Harry, who dreams of living like a free-spirited commoner with his republican girlfriend. The actors also excel with the iambic pentameter that gives the play its poetic structure.

The Glass Menagerie

One of the most influential dramas in theater history, The Glass Menagerie explores the implacable grip of memory and the past on family members. This “memory play” features the struggles of a single mother Amanda Wingfield, her crippled daughter Laura and her adventure-seeking son Tom. Based on autobiographical details about Williams’s schizophrenic sister Rose, The Glass Menagerie is a bleak look at Depression-era America.

Featuring the characters of Tom (narrator and protagonist) and his painfully shy older sister Laura, The Glass Menagerie was Tennessee Williams’ big break, launching his career into fame. The play has strong autobiographical elements featuring his histrionic mother and his fragile sister. Laura’s collection of glass animal figurines, which she calls her glass menagerie, symbolizes her separate world and her fragility. When the unicorn in her glass menagerie breaks, it becomes a metaphor for her — she’s like a unicorn, beautiful and different from others. But when the horn is broken off, it becomes a normal horse and fits into the world around her.

The Crucible

A great work of art reflects its time period to some degree, and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is no exception. Originally published in 1953, the drama presents a fictionalised depiction of the 1692 Salem witch trials, but it also serves as an allegory for McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare.

Its central notions of hysteria and accusation are still hugely pertinent to our modern society, and the play is a fascinating study of the dangers of mob rule. It is easy to see how this destructive pattern could emerge in our own times, especially given the ease with which information can be distorted and rumours spread via social media.

Lindsey Turner’s production is engrossing, and Es Devlin’s elongated set design is striking. But the play does not quite reach its full potential as a thought-provoking and relevant piece of theatre. Abigail’s constant chastisement of others for sins such as envy feels like an attempt to cover up her own darker ambitions, and John Proctor’s decision to confess to being a witch does not fully highlight the dangers of this kind of self-serving action.

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