May 28, 2014
Frog & Peach have an excellent reputation for Shakespearean productions in New York City. Clearly, there is a great deal of warmth in their productions and a sense of ensemble that is sorely lacking in many theatres around the city. It is unfortunate that these qualities don’t really surface in their current production of Shakespeare’s King John. Playing at the West End Theatre, the show is very uneven – strong performances alongside weak, inspired moments of staging followed by puzzlingly bland, and a yearning for epicness that is never quite realized.
Director Lynnea Benson is inspired by the current cultural phenomenon of Game of Thrones. There are references to the HBO series in both the costuming and set pieces. And it’s not a bad idea – certainly King John has a large roster of characters and features a great deal of scheming and betrayal for a crown. The similarities end there, however.
The venue doesn’t lend itself to the sweeping scale Frog & Peach attempt. This is very clear in the combat scenes onstage – too many people are fighting at too slow a pace. As the titular John, Eric Doss plays him as a weak, insecure , momma’s boy, at times clinging to his iron hard mother, Elinor (Karen Lynn Gorney). His whininess grows tiresome very quickly, unfortunately.
Luke Edward Smith as Philip the Bastard and Hamish Carmichael as Arthur both give solid turns as young men trying to find their place in this world. Also, of note is Amy Frances Quint as Arthur’s mother, Constance, whose decent into madness at the loss of her son is quite chilling.
You can see the production that they wanted to produce and it would have been something to see. What they actually have, however, falls short of the mark.
EYE ON THE ARS, NY-- Kelly Johnston