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"Mary Stuart": Theater Review 

Wednesday, Oct 27 2010

To appreciate the Shotgun Players' adaptation of Schiller's 18th-century play, Mary Stuart, you must consider the set. It has two doors, three video screens, a mirror, a white board, a one-way window, and a sliding section of floor. The stage must be so involved to distract us from the fact that for nearly two hours nothing happens on it. The blocking is simple verging on primitive: Characters enter, they talk, someone leaves. That's it. The few times (you can count them on one hand) they actually touch each other are so shocking it's electric. But the electricity is real: The dialogue, semi-adapted for modern times, shines — and the actors carry a charge. Mary Stuart features superb performances, especially from Peter Ruocco (Lord Burleigh) and Scott Coopwood (Count Leicester). The compelling character conflicts and parallels with our own time make the dramatic tension in a story whose outcome we already know — how Queen Elizabeth I of England came to undo her cousin Mary Queen of Scots in 1587 — nothing short of intense. When Burleigh, speaking for the state, says, "We don't torture," the crowd just has to laugh. The conflict between morality and politics is sadly contemporary.

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Benjamin Wachs


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