Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gablestage: Defiance (3 reviews)

DEFIANCE by John Patrick ShanleyJohn Patrick Shanley's Defiance opened at GableStage on February 21, and runs through March 22nd. It features Paul Homza, Bill Schwartz, Patti Gardner, Reiss Gaspard, Paul Tei, and Ezra Jesse Bookman.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach Arts Paper, publishing just one day before the play closes:
While it is not up to its predecessor in quality and ambiguity, Defiance again puts ethics and personal quandaries center stage, offering actors a number of juicy roles which the GableStage cast devours.

Director Joseph Adler gets a nicely nuanced performance from Gaspard as a man who would prefer invisibility to prominence. And Tei is cast against type, as far removed from his usual hip, edgy roles, which makes the chaplain all the more compelling.

Patti Gardner lends capable support as Littlefield’s dutiful, but questioning military wife and newcomer Ezra Jesse Bookman makes the most of a brief appearance as a soldier whose sudden desire to see action in Vietnam proves pivotal
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed it for the Miami New Times:
Defiance, now enjoying its regional premiere at Joe Adler's GableStage, is ... newer than Doubt, and less famous, but every bit as powerful.
Brandon spends a lot of time talking about playwright John Patrick Shanley's work, and how this play relates to it, but we get a taste of this production:
The base is boiling with violent racial unrest, and Col. Morgan Littlefield (Bill Schwartz), the base commander, is determined to root it out... It's difficult to tell how much of Littlefield's gruff affability resides in Schwartz's portrayal or Shanley's script, but at least in this production, it's impossible not to like the guy.
Even Brandon realizes at some point that he's been talking about the script instead of the production, which regular readers will recognize as my own pet peeve. But he speaks out in his own defense:
You might sense I'm extolling the virtues of Shanley's script at the expense of GableStage's production. I'm not. The minutiae under discussion would be absent from the show if director Joe Adler hadn't reached deep into his considerable reservoirs of talent and discovered a capacity for shrewdness and subtlety that is too often underutilized in his shows (there are many superlatives one could attach to the average Adler joint, but subtle isn't one).
OK, Brandon. That's a fair observation, and one worth noting. Besides, you wind up with a review of the production itself:
Defiance is a play that explores big concepts in tiny moments and requires extraordinary sympathy from its interpreters to avoid disintegration into a gush of useless words. Without, say, Reiss Gaspard injecting a little pain under the fa├žade of Captain King's propriety, King would be a bit of a twat, and you'd wonder why Shanley decided to write a play about him. As it is, Gaspard and his costars act as organically — as invisibly — as Shanley wrote. Like Shanley, they leave their egos at home and meet us in the theater not to instruct or judge, but to wonder.
High praise, indeed. Make sure you click through and read the entire review; Brandon's always a good read.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
Defiance, written in 2006 as a follow-up to Doubt, explores a another hierarchical culture and a different sexual misdeed, but it means to be as thought-provoking as Doubt. It isn't, nor is it as good as its predecessor, but you will scarcely
realize that if you catch Joseph Adler's razor-sharp new production of Defiance at GableStage.

The absorbing, thanks to Adler's astute direction of a powerful cast.
The play may be worth it simply to finally see Tei in a role that goes against type:
Tei, in the antithesis of his own artist-hipster persona, delivers a funny, cagey, delightfully nuanced performance.
But Christine found a lot of strong performances in this production, be sure to click through to the full review.

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