BWW Review: Captivating QUEEN MARGARET at Head Trick Theatre
Head Trick Theatre opens their 2019-2020 season, "In War With Time," with Jennifer Dick's small cast adaptation of the play QUEEN MARGARET, which takes a closer look at Margaret of Anjou. A character in several of Shakespeare's "history plays," she is finally given her time in the spotlight, with a fuller look at her role in the 15th century War of the Roses. The audience is left to decide whether she is a hero or a villain.
The direction by Rebecca Maxfield (who also stepped in for the role of Richard III during the Saturday afternoon performance) and Assistant Direction by Valearie Kane is on point, creating visually interesting scenes even during the quieter moments, and lively fight choreography by Ryan Stevenson. The cast does a fine job getting at the heart of these characters while delivering the Shakespearean prose, with several stand out performances. As Margaret, Kerstyn Desjardin, does a marvelous job conveying the array of emotions that lead her to take action when the decisions of her husband, Henry VI (Ken Lumb) seem to leave her no other choice. Lumb does well as the king who would rather be dealing with learning or religion than facing the battlefield. Joanne Fayan is cunning as the ambitious Richard, Duke of York, and the scene between these three characters, as the plan to depose the Lancasters from the throne is unveiled, and the aftermath of this proclamation, is particularly thrilling.
The space within AS220's Black Box theatre is largely bare, with the exception of a plain chair in one upstage corner and a throne only utilized in certain scenes. This sparseness works in the production's favor, allowing the audience to concentrate more closely on the actors and the words being spoken. Scenes are instead built through the use of sound (from era appropriate harpsichord to the cacophony of a raging battle - designed by the show's director, Rebecca Maxfield) and light. Unlike other productions of the show, which have placed the setting in modern times, and the actors in modern dress, the costume design by Lauren Pothier wisely keeps the cast in simple but effective versions of dress appropriate to the time period of the play.
A fun addition to Head Trick's production asks the audience to become invested in the story before even entering the auditorium, by choosing which side they would like to support - the Yorks or the Lancasters. Depending upon one's answer, each person is asked to wear a small pin depicting either a white rose for the Yorks or a red rose for the Lancasters, and are asked to sit in a part of the theatre previously designated for either faction. While I enjoyed this bit of immersion, parts of some scenes were partially obstructed when sitting on the end of the front row on the York side, and occasionally dialog was obscured when actors were facing away from that side of the auditorium. Fortunately these moments were far and few between.
Remaining performances of Queen Margaret are next Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (July 17th-19th) at 8:00pm and Sunday July 21st at both 2:00pm and 8:00pm at AS220's Black Box theatre, 95 Empire Street, Providence, RI 02903. Tickets can be pre-ordered online or purchased at the door for $20, with the Wednesday evening performance being Pay-What-You-Can, and all performances free with a Brown or RISD student ID.
Head Trick Theatre is a performing group based in Providence, RI that puts on innovative productions of classic plays with a focus on the importance of liveness. Recent productions include Goblin Market, Polly Pen and Peggy Harmon's otherworldly musical of memory and sisterhood adapted from the Christina Rossetti poem; Watch on the Rhine, Lillian Hellman's thriller exhorting Americans to stand up against rising fascism; and Much Ado About Nothing, a feminist/gay look at Shakespeare's classic battle of wits. Upcoming: Mrs. Dalloway (Fall 2019) and The Lucky Chance (Spring 2020).
Pictured: Kerstyn Desjardin as Margaret of Anjou, courtesy of Head Trick Theatre