Showing posts with label Elizabeth Heflin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elizabeth Heflin. Show all posts

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Theater Review: Medea | Resident Ensemble Players

By Steve Lanahan
Theater reviewer Steve Lanahan was born, raised, and lives in north Wilmington. He is a nerd, mead enthusiast, and servant to his cats.

The Resident Ensemble Players (REP) brings the ancient Greek tragedy Medea to the stage at the Roselle Center for the Arts. First produced in 431 B.C.E., this play asks important questions that remain relevant, even in this modern day. What is the role of a woman in society? How far is too far? Are the Fates truly so cruel?

Medea’s (Elizabeth Heflin) nurse (Kathleen Pirkl Tague) opens the performance with the tale of how they came to be in the kingdom of Corinth. She tells of how Jason (Stephen Pelinski) came to Medea’s home of Colchis, how she fell madly in love with him, and her terrible acts on his behalf. They were wed, she bore him two children, and they made a life together in Corinth. Now Jason has betrayed her and intends to marry Princess Creusa, daughter of King Creon (Hassan El-Amin). The nurse does not hold back her anger at Jason or her fear of what Medea will do.

This betrayal leaves Medea heartbroken, ashamed, and furious, and she vows revenge. Her despair and rage are so great that King Creon, fearing for his life as well as his daughter’s, banishes her from his kingdom. She begs him for a single day to prepare for her travels, pointing out that her sons (Nicholas Farrel and James Muzzi), Jason’s sons, would suffer. The king relents and grants her a single day.

Medea only needs one day to plan and take her revenge. Though she struggles with what she feels she must do, Jason helps by coming to chastise her for ruining his plan to give her and their children a better life by marrying this young princess. He feels his betrayal of their marriage is justified by his goals. She names him an oath breaker, and he counters that she got the better end of this deal. After all, he brought her from her barbarian home to civilization, and now she speaks to kings and gods.

In the end, Medea’s revenge takes everything from Jason, even his children. All throughout this chilling tale, the Chorus speaks in despairing tones, taking on the voices of the women of Corinth. They speak in disjointed patterns, sometimes from the sides of the stage, other times on the stage, and later among the crowd. They never hesitate to add context for their reactions nor show horror at what is happening.

Elizabeth Heflin's stunning performance as Medea embodies the range of her suffering. Despair, rage, and grief are plain and raw. Every time Medea steps on to the stage, there is a feeling of dread, because the tragic end is coming. Heflin ensures that none can look away from the wrath of Medea's revenge.

Kathleen Pirkl Tague, as Medea's nurse, sets the tone for the play and leaves dread hanging in her wake. The first to take the stage, her anger at Jason's actions is palpable, eclipsed only by her fear at what Medea might do. In the final lines, she leaves no question that what is to come will be spoken of in horror for all the ages. The performance is powerful, a fitting opening and final note that leaves no choice but to stare this tragedy head on and think about it for days to come.

The simple stage setting focuses attention on Medea’s suffering, King Creon’s fear, and Jason’s unrepentant pride. Theatrical fog hangs about the stage, giving everything a gloomy edge, a feeling intensified by the haunting music. Strobe lights are used in concert with the soundscape to highlight thunder and Medea’s escape.

This tragedy has withstood the test of time, and the REP’s excellent adaption shows that it will continue to endure. The ending is not a happy one, but it is cathartic. The questions this play will raise will continue to haunt us through the ages.

Medea will run Thursday through Saturday at 7:30pm, with an additional show on Sundays at 2pm, until April 30. The run time is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. The Roselle Center for the Arts is located at 110 Orchard Road, Newark, DE 19716. Visit the REP's website or call the box office at 302.831.2204 for details.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

A Taste of "Arsenic and Old Lace" at The REP

By Mike Logothetis
Theater reviewer Mike Logothetis grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.


Arsenic and Old Lace playing now through November 20.
Photo courtesy of The REP.
The University of Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players (REP) kicks off its 2022-23 season with the great American farcical black comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring.

This enduring play, originally staged on Broadway in 1941, continues to astound audiences with its ingenious and brilliant construction. The current production at the REP carries on the grand tradition of the show and entertains from opening curtain to curtain call.

“Some of you may have heard the pandemic radio version of the play and now you can see the real thing. It’s about two older women that relieve older gentleman of their loneliness by killing them with arsenic. You can think of it as a euthanasia comedy.”
— Steve Tague, the REP's new Interim Producing Artistic Director.

The show revolves around the odd members of the Brewster family in their stately Brooklyn home. Mortimer Brewster (Mic Matarrese) is living a happy life in the large old mansion. He has a good job as a drama critic at a prominent New York newspaper and he’s just become engaged to his neighbor Elaine Harper (Erin Partin). His spinster aunts Abby (Kathleen Pirkl Tague) and Martha (Elizabeth Heflin) dote on him and are adored by the community. They even look after and protect Mortimer’s quirky brother Teddy (Lee E. Ernst) who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt.

Mortimer’s world is turned upside down when he discovers that his dear aunts have been quietly poisoning lonely old men and burying them in the basement for years. Aside from this new revelation, long lost maniacal brother Jonathan (Stephen Pelinski) returns on the night that the aunts are planning to bury their newest victim. His somewhat unwilling partner Dr. Einstein (Michael Gotch) adds ghoulish layers to Jonathan’s mysterious past. Mortimer must rally to help his aunts, foil his brother’s nefarious plans, and protect his fiancĂ© – all while trying to maintain his own sanity. Even the local cops (Rob Hancock and John Plumpis) become part of the action, both good and bad; albeit unwittingly. Put it this way, the plot is always swirling… As Abby Brewster says, “How delicious!”

The beautiful set design and construction is the first thing that catches the eye upon entering the theater. It is a wonder of planning and carpentry that includes fine wooden details, wallpaper, portraits, animal heads, and doors…so many doors. Kudos to Stefanie Hansen and her crew.

The actors all shine, but the menace is real when Pelinski’s Jonathan looms on stage. Matarrese does a great job of looking peaceful one minute and utterly distressed the next. His physical and mental exhaustion from the escapades he faces puts the audience on his side. 

The show is funny throughout, but the comedic highlights mostly happen in the second act with many quick and clever jokes. Aunts Abby and Martha (Heflin and Tague) always aim to please and drop some great deadpan one-liners while doing so. The old women just want what’s best for everyone they meet, even believing that serving their killer elderberry wine is a neighborly service. It is, but solely for our entertainment!

My suggestion is to plan an evening out in Newark to enjoy some great theater, but watch out for the apparent kindness of elderly female strangers.

Arsenic and Old Lace will run through November 20 at Thompson Theatre inside the Roselle Center for the Arts (CFA) on the campus of the University of Delaware. Evening shows start at 7:30 and curtain is at 2 for matinees. The performance runs approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes, with two 10-minute intermissions. 

Tickets ($35-39) can be purchased at the theatre box office or online. Please call the box office at (302) 831-2204 or e-mail cfa-boxoffice@udel.edu for information. 

For more information, visit www.rep.udel.edu.