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BWW Review: Iannone Uncovers Edwin Booth's Life at Theater RED's World Premiere

Milwaukee's TheateRED begins their 2015-2016 season titled "We All Have Blood On Our Hands," with a World Premiere written by one of the city's acclaimed actors and directors, Angela Iannone. Iannone constructs a play, The Seed of Banquo, based on the historical facts of American theater great Edwin Booth, and yes, also the brother of the infamous John Wilkes Booth. Edwin Booth opened a theater with his namesake in 1888, and then directed, designed and starred in the plays he choose to produce. In Iannone's The Seeds of Banquo, his historical and personal stage design, prompt book and blocking were used to recreate Booth's original production, including the stage back drop, while she intermingles Booth's personal life to the point where lines in Shakespeare's Macbeth might easily be quoted by the individual Booth regarding his own relections.

When theatergoers enter the lobby at Soulstice Theater in Saint Francis, vintage photographs of the historical figures in the play can be seen. These pictures resemble the cast members with an uncanny likeness--John Mundschau Glowacki appears as charismatic and slim as Edwin Booth. In the role of Booth's rival Lawrence Barrett, Cory Jefferson Hagen matches Glowacki's intensity with calm precision. Playing another actor from a competing theater, Bryan Quinn inhabits an affable and humorous Owen Fawcett. To round out the masculine members in the cast, Theatre RED Co-Founder Marcie Doherty-Elst recreatees the pivotol role of Mrs. DP Bowers while Sasha Katherine Sigel emobides the young actress trying to learn from the revered Booth, Minna Galle.

In the fascinating historical drama, the cast begins by rehearsing Macbeth while Booth and Barrett discuss waiting for Booth's wife to bear his child, hopefully a son. Fawcett appears and worries about the curse of performing Macbeth, naming the play outloud in the theater. This premise intertwines historical fact and fiction in a humorous yet poignatnt drama with a Booth "who shares his emotions as intimate as a lover."

Iannone's intelligent, sharp-witted and sophisticated play keeps the audience both attentive and smiling with touches of keen humor--a class act in every sense. By linking Booth the to Scottish king, and Barret with Shakespeare's character of Banquo, the prophecies in Macbeth and foretold by the three witches ring ture or these two dear friends, Booth and Barrett, Macbeth and then Banquo. While Macbeth will be the new Scottish royal, Banquo will carry the royal lineage.

For a small production, the costumes impress the audience, as the does the acting. A production directed by the playwright Iannone reaps rewards, placing the best investmenst in her cast and play, an incredible twist on Shakespeare and this rather tormented Booth, who acheived great fame as a actor while his personal life suffered. Iannon also incoporates how these actors viewed American theatrical life in the late 19th century when Barrett explains to the novice Gale, "Telling the truth about your heart and soul is acting."

Then, as the performance comes into the second act, almost very suddenly, the play ends with Fawcett bringing Booth important personal news---and the curtain, so to speak, falls. This leaves the audience wishing for more, an epilogue, or something more. While they might surmise what could or did happen, could there be a more satisfying end? A hint of what will come in the future, in Booth's life or the Macbeth production? While no one in the audience needs to know every fact, a more fulfilling scene could be added instead of this rather ambiguous exit where Fawcett glance upward towards the audience in the theater.

What a fascinating, funny and riveting play--theatergoers will wish that the remaining plays in Iannone's cycle could be seen. Perhpas another possibility for these plays could be a two-day production performing the entire cycle, or as in British playwirght Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests, Iannone's Booth plays could be rotated during one producition run. Combining historical truths reflecing Booth's life in American theater with classic Shakespeare adds to this compelling professional production drawing on theatrical history and theory. Congratulations to TheateRED and Iannone along with their marvelous cast in this fourth new play to uncover Booth's life and light with such dramatic flair.

TheateRED presents Angela Iannone's World Premiere The Seeds of Banquo at Soulstice Theater, 3770 South Pennsylvania Avenue through Sunday, August 23. A portion of the proceeds from all ticket sales will be donated to New York's The Players Preservation Fund, an organization dedicated to restoring and preseving the home of The Players, where the Edwin Booth's archives can be acessed. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.theaterred.com.


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From This Author Peggy Sue Dunigan