Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Caldwell Theatre Company: Secret Order (5 reviews)

The Caldwell Theatre Company production of Bob Clyman's Secret Order opened July 7, 2010.
William Shumway is a brilliant young research scientist who claims to have discovered the cure for cancer.  Dr Brock runs the most prestigious research laboratory in the world.  Visions of Nobel prizes dance in their heads.  That is, until the cure is derailed.  Shumway tells Brock of the problems...or does he?  Brock guides Shumway to the truth...or does he?
Tom Bloom directed a cast that featured Gordon McConnell,Nick Duckart, Howard Elfman, and Katie Cunningham.

Gordon McConnell fell ill opening weekend, with director Tom Bloom stepping into his role for performances on July 11.

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
Congratulations to the Caldwell Theatre, which has pulled off that rarest of all theatrical feats: the production of an intelligent summertime show.
Nick Duckart, Howard Elfman, and Gordon McConnell  turn in typically strong performances. McConnell, as an aging Nobel laureate whose best science is behind him, is a marvel of rhythmic naturalism. But the real surprise here is Kate Cunningham, a relative newbie to life and to Florida. Her portrayal of a 21-year-old medical whiz rips across the stage like a bolt of lightning.
Irv Rikon reviewed for the Century Village Data Sink:
In truth, Secret Order  is suspenseful, a play in which you come to care about these people, but it's neither comedic nor a thriller. It does contain a few comic lines, but these seem rather out of place in a play that deals with the serious topic of cancer. And there's very little mystery of the type one associates with "thriller." The play is straightforward, and you know from the outset the players and something of the general direction in which they're headed.
Still, there's much to like here... Tim Bennett's set is a marvel of design and economy. Tom Bloom's directing could use more dynamics — that first-act pace is too slow — but overall, it achieves the desired effect.
John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin'Broadway.com:
Secret Order has some intelligent banter and an interesting premise, but loses steam along the way. The pacing of the show is filled with peaks and valleys, and there are just too many valleys to keep the momentum or our interest. Nick Duckart and Katie Cunningham are wonderful both separately and together. Howard Elfman as Saul Roth provides a bit of unexpected and welcome levity to the plot. Gordon McConnell establishes a great character, but at the performance attended repeatedly went up on his lines, slowing down the pacing of the show, which at two hours and 40 minutes is just too long.
Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
There are plenty of ideas worth pondering here‭ ‬--‭ ‬science versus commerce,‭ ‬personal interests versus community welfare,‭ ‬adhering to accepted work standards versus saving lives‭ ‬--‭ ‬but they are introduced so inertly,‭ ‬buried in verbiage.‭ ‬There is a natural interest in these topics,‭ ‬but you are likely to have your‭ ‬patience tested over the course of the two-and-a-half-hours-plus running time of‭ ‬Secret Order.
The script centers on young William Shumway,‭ ‬played by Nick Duckart‭ (‬The Whipping Man‭) ‬initially as a Midwest bumpkin.‭ ‬His performance grows more subtle,‭ ‬as the character becomes more acclimated to the urban environment.‭ ‬If Shumway remains in over his head,‭ ‬Duckart never is.
McConnell... is well cast as Robert Brock,‭ ‬projecting an impatient arrogance,‭ ‬bullying his way through all situations,‭ ‬with a gruff exterior that he gradually lets us see beneath.
Roger Martin reviewed for MiamiArtzine.com:
The Caldwell Theatre's summer show Secret Order is described in the Playbill as a comedic thriller. No, it's not. Not really. It's got some smart, funny lines but not much humor. A few thrills, perhaps, but it's mostly absorbing scenes of people doing what people do – striving to win.
A good cast here at the Caldwell. The younger actors, Duckart who gets better with each show, and Cunningham, work well with veterans McConnell, unusually line booting here and there, and Elfman, who is always solid and excels in the second act.
There's a minimalist set by Tim Bennett and lights by Tom Salzman with Randy Tico contributing bubbling beaker music. Directed by Tom Bloom, Secret Order is a cynical show that never quite goes where one expects and is all the stronger for that. And not once did I look at my watch.
Secret Order plays at the Caldwell Theatre through August 1, 2010.

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