BWW Reviews: Betsy Horne Shines as KAT'A KABANOVA at Spoleto Festival

BWW Reviews: Betsy Horne Shines as KAT'A KABANOVA at Spoleto Festival

In her operatic debut, director Garry Hynes premiered her staging of the classic 20th Century opera KAT'A KABANOVA at the Spoleto Festival on May 24. Artistic Director of the Irish theatre company Druid, Hynes holds the distinction of being the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Director of a Play (for THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE).

Based on Ostrovsky's play THE STORM, Kat'a Kabanova takes the audience inside the mind of an idealistic young woman (played by Betsy Horne in her American debut) trapped in a repressive marriage to an older man. In this dramatically demanding role, Horne's crystal clear soprano voice is ably paired by her dynamic acting abilities. Her Ophelia-like mental deterioration after surrendering her moral convictions and succumbing to an affair is depicted with clarity and rich pathos. Her suicidal plunge into the Volga at the opera's end marks the culmination of a clearly plotted emotional journey.

Noteworthy performances among the supporting cast include Dennis Petersen as Kat'a's spineless husband Tichon, a man utterly ruled by his demanding and self-righteous mother. In the role of Kabanicha, Jennifer Roderer commands the stage as a larger-than-life nightmare of a mother-in-law. A delightful Megan Marino plays Varvara, Kat'a's vivacious confidante.

Stark minimalism defines the concrete set, designed by Matt Saunders. Comprised of a simple box dominated by a low ceiling that is half the height of the proscenium arch, the enclosed space suggests Kat'a's claustrophic, joyless world. Doors set into the back wall open for a memorable visual of the townspeople sheltering under umbrellas as a storm erupts.

Conducted by Anne Manson, the Spoleto USA Orchestra was a trifle over-powering in volume on opening night, at times overwhelming the vocalists. Otherwise, the production was a highly successful melding of musical, visual and dramatic excellence.

Pictured: Betsy Horne as Kat'a. Photography by Julia Lynn.

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Debra Charlton Debra Charlton is the author of Holistic Shakespeare: An Experiential Learning Approach (Intellect Books 2012). Her reviews and articles on Shakespeare training and performance have appeared in numerous publications. Most recently, her chapter on Sarah Bernhardt was published in Women in the Arts in the Belle Epoque (MacFarland 2012).

Debra Charlton received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin with a specialization in Shakespearean theatre.  She joined the faculty of Texas State University in 1999 where she served as Director of Graduate Studies in Theatre until 2013. At Texas State, she established and supervised the production dramaturgy program at Texas State, and founded a summer Shakespeare intensive in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK.

Dr. Charlton began her career as a professional actor at Houston’s Alley Theatre.  She has since directed many productions, including King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Blood Wedding, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Winter’s Tale.   She has also worked as a production dramaturg on many plays, including Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night, Oklahoma!, A Little Night Music, Arcadia, The Art of Dining, and The Learned Ladies.


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