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BWW Reviews: WITTENBERG in Richmond

A joint achievement from Henley Street Theatre and Richmond Shakespeare, David Davalos's WITTENBERG, is the region's latest entry in the Acts of Faith festival. Davalos's script, with puffs of repartee, allusion and other witty wordplay, is heavy handed at times. Lucky for a general audience, he balances his bardish banter with modern language.

The fall of 1517 starts another semester at the University of Wittenberg. At the outset, Hamlet (Dixon Cashwell) has returned from a summer abroad in Poland, where he encountered scientific theories and new philosophical postulations that threaten his own view of the universe, his faith and his tennis game.

Vying for Hamlet's subservience are: his professor and mentor, Dr. John Faustus (Jeffrey Cole), who seeks a commitment from his amorist and far-reaching courtesan, Helen (Stacie Rearden Hall); and Reverend Martin Luther (Andrew Hamm) who is questioning the very principles and practices of the church to which he swore his loyalty.

J. Paul Nicholas directs WITTENBERG with razor-sharp dedication to the language and pace of Davalos's script, and makes great use of the entire theatre space.

Tennessee Dixon's set design makes great use of the humble Richmond Triangle Players stage and BJ Wilkinson's lighting is effective, sometimes using bouncy tones and strobe lighting to create the effects of delusions and phantasms.

Rearden Hall takes on all of the female roles within the show with great ease, noticeably transforming from bar maid to sultry temptress from one scene to the next. As Reverend Martin Luther, Hamm balances his kindness toward Hamlet with his fastidious opposition toward Dr. Faustus and demonstrates perfect elocution with every line.

Cashwell's Hamlet is tender and pyretic. His abilities are best on display during each of his many monologues, where he shows a myriad of character through body and voice. But it's Cole's Dr. Faustus who steals the show away, with a keen sense of comedic timing and audience-serenading acoustic performances.

Filled with highbrow humor and strong performances, WITTENBERG runs through April 19 at Richmond Triangle Players.

Photo Credit: Chris Smith

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