Totally theatrical. With neither a vibrator in sight nor a maid speaking Spanish the Classic Stage Company along with adapter Sarah Ruhl and a design team that has done wonders within the small confines of the theatre on East 13th Street have come up with a stylish and stylized, fantastical production of Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando”, where sexual identities are examined and blurred.
Where Orlando, a poet at heart – a riveting Francesca Faridany – starts out as a sixteen year old boy adept at swordsmanship in Elizabethan England, is wooed by none other than Queen Elizabeth I (a delightful as usual David Greenspan) falls in love with Sasha, a Russian Princess who disappoints (Annika Boras’ accent becomes grating and unintelligible despite her beauty), is pursued by a demanding Arch Duchess (another coup for Mr. Greenspan) that results in his escaping to Constantinople where after a night of debauchery he falls asleep and awakens as a full blown woman. This transition is just one of the stunning visual aspects of this classic production.
The costumes (Anita Yavich) are simple yet clever. The wedding gown and bridal hat of a cardboard boat and elongated lace veil that soars to the top of the theatre is breathtaking as is the Elizabeth I gown that descends from above and is affixed to a very amusing and majestic Mr. Greenspan. The scenic design by Allen Moyer beautifully adds to the visual richness.
As directed by Rebecca Taichman, Orlando takes on the look of a “tableau vivant”, with measured, courtly steps provided by choreographer Annie-B Parson resulting in a fluidity that is sometimes a bit sterile where a more sensual feeling would be welcomed.
Sarah Ruhl has opted to adapt Orlando in true “story theatre” fashion. That is, the actors narrate the story as well as act the various characters. The ensemble of three men (Tom Nelis, Howard Overshown and the aforementioned Mr. Greenspan) play both men and women. And dogs. And birds. It’s a clever conceit that fits Virginia Woolf’s Orlando like a silk glove.
www.classicstage.org Through Oct 17th. Photo: Joan Marcus