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Signature Theatre Chess

By • Sep 5th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Chess
Signature Theatre
Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA
Through October 3rd
$55 – $81
2:15 with one intermission
Reviewed August 29th, 2010

Attending Signature Theatre in the past at it original location and the Signature Theatre now, one can gain a sense of Eric Schaeffer’s artistic style, his flair for the darker sides of the human condition. There’s a lot to be said for this one-of-a-kind artistic director, and many have done just that. I guess, as I’m doing right now. His productions have always seemed, by this writer, to venture into the soul of us all. Maybe Eric is trying to get us all to see we are all different and at the same time see we are all very much the same. I know Mr. Schaeffer doesn’t write the plays. He doesn’t compose the music or write the lyrics. But what Eric does is set the mood for each production. He gives us his vision of the playwrights’ words. He casts each performer to imbue each story with his own touch. If you see one of his productions, you can now say, “This is a Schaeffer play!”

OK, now on to the current production, Chess. There are aspects of his production I loved and totally agreed with, there are few I questioned. But to start off I’ll just say this is a production you simply won’t want to miss. I personally hate to use the abused term of Must-See, but this is truly one of those productions.

The setting is a chess match between two masters of the game back during the cold war. They are competing for a world championship. One American, Freddie Trumper, is brilliantly played by Jeremy Kushnier who sets the tone for the play from his first entrance. His acting and strong voice captures you and draws you into his character’s life.

The other chess master is Anatoly Sergievsky, played by Euan Morton is as brilliant as Mr. Kushnier in his singing and subtle yet powerful ability to emit all the heartfelt joy of love and also with the pain and agony of losing it.

The third lead is Freddie’s ‘Second’ Florence, played by Jill Paice. Ms. Paice delivers a performance that is breathtaking. She delivers a performance takes the music and dialogue to levels of the highest caliber of any Signature Theatre production this reviewer has ever seen. Wow! A performance I will never forget. Very well done Ms. Paice.

Rounding out the principles are the characters of Walter & Ariter, played respectively by Russell Sunday & Chris Sizemore. Both are fabulous singers and actors and both kept their pacing at a level with the three stars of the show. Also matching the beautiful voice and acting are the characters Svetlana & Gregor Molokov, played by Eleasha Gamble & Christopher Bloch. Ms. Gamble voice, especially in the duet with Jill Paice, “I Know Him So Well” is a tearjerker.

The Ensemble is comprised of mostly regular company actors who play their roles with great singing and definiteness of purpose throughout the show.

The Set Design by Daniel Conway is works so well for this show and for the Signature space. I loved his use of the balcony, spiral staircases and especially metallic scrims. Chris Lee’s lighting design worked wonderfully with Mr. Conway’s set and Mr. Schaeffer’s Direction. Mr. Lee set the mood for every scene. Karma Camp’s choreography was modernistic and yet created too much of a distraction during “One Night In Bangkok.” Maybe all focus should have gone to Freddie. The costume design by Kathleen Geldard was fantastic. Matt Rowe’s sound design was spot on. The projection design by Aaron Fisher was a nice addition to this production. It helped update this production.

The music direction and new orchestrations are by David Holcenberg “…an expert on Ulvaeus and Andersson’s musical theatre work who is currently the Associate Music Supervisor for Mamma Mia! In North and South America.”

At the end of the evening almost the entire audience jumped to their feet with a standing ovation. When you leave the theatre you may have, as I did, a smile on my face and a song in my voice. What a great night!

Photo Gallery

Jill Paice as Florence singing Nobody's Side Jeremy Kushnier as Freddie Trumper singing One Night in Bangkok
Jill Paice as Florence singing Nobody’s Side
Jeremy Kushnier as Freddie Trumper singing One Night in Bangkok
Jill Paice and Euan Morton Jill Paice and Jeremy Kushnier singing You Want To Lose Your Only Friend
Jill Paice and Euan Morton
Jill Paice and Jeremy Kushnier singing You Want To Lose Your Only Friend
Jill Paice and Eleasha Gamble in I Know Him So Well Jill Paice and Euan Morton singing Terrace Duet
Jill Paice and Eleasha Gamble in I Know Him So Well
Jill Paice and Euan Morton singing Terrace Duet
Jeremy Kushnier The big match
Jeremy Kushnier
The big match
Euan Morton, Chris Sizemore, and Jeremy Kushnier Chris Sizemore with the Ensemble singing 'The Arbiter's Song'
Euan Morton, Chris Sizemore, and Jeremy Kushnier
Chris Sizemore with the Ensemble singing ‘The Arbiter’s Song’
Euan Morton and the Ensemble with Jill Paice in the background Jeremy Kushnier with the Ensemble with Jill Paice in the background
Euan Morton and the Ensemble with Jill Paice in the background
Jeremy Kushnier with the Ensemble with Jill Paice in the background
Jeremy Kushnier with the Ensemble singing One Night In Bangkok
Jeremy Kushnier with the Ensemble singing One Night In Bangkok

Photos by Scott Suchman for Signature Theatre.

Cast

  • Gregor: Christopher Bloch
  • Young Florence: Rachel Boyd, Anna Grace Norwalk
  • Anatoly Sergievsky: Euan Morton
  • Molokov: Christopher Bloch
  • Arbiter: Chris Sizemore
  • Freddie Trumper: Jeremy Kushnier
  • Florence: Jill Paice
  • Walter: Russell Sunday
  • Nikolai: Gregory Maheu
  • Svetlana: Eleasha Gamble
  • Ensemble: Jonathan Atkinson, Jamie Eacker, James Gardiner, Gregory Maheu, Katie MacManus, Christopher Mueller, Bayla Whitten, Rachel Zampelli
  • Understudies
    • Florence: Bayla Whitten
    • Anatoly: Gregory Maheu
    • Freddie: Christopher Mueller
    • Arbiter: James Gardiner
    • Svetlana: Rachel Zampelli
    • Male Swing: Gannon O’Brien
    • Female Swing: Emily Levey

Musicians

  • Conductor: Jenny Cartney
  • Woodwinds: Lee Lachman
  • Violin 1: Doug Dube
  • Violin 2: Andrea Vercoe
  • Cello 1: Aron Rider
  • Cello 2: Deb Brudvig
  • Keyboard 1: Gabriel Mangiante
  • Keyboard 2: Jenny Cartney
  • Guitar: Phil Mathieu
  • Bass Eric Seay
  • Drums: Gary Tilman

Disclaimer: Signature Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.

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