MetroStage The Thousandth NightBy David Siegel • Apr 14th, 2014 • Category: Reviews
MetroStage: (Info) (Web)
MetroStage, Alexandria, VA
Through May 18th
85 minutes without intermission
$50 (Plus Fees)
Reviewed April 12th, 2014
From beginning to end, the talented actor Marcus Kyd as Guy de Bonheur, makes us care. In a taut, one actor, one-act The Thousandth Night by Carol Wolf the poised Kyd takes on about three dozen roles beyond just de Bonheur to draw us into a world of ever-increasing fear and suspense that permeates MetroStage’s production.
The Thousandth Night is accomplished with Wolf’s theatrical conceit; the re-telling of the tales of Queen Scheherazade and her “Arabian Nights.” Why that? Remember Scheherazade used her 1001 nights of storytelling to save her own life. In Wolf’s The Thousandth Night there is a different life at stake; and the time and location are far from ancient Baghdad. But a life and a way of life are at stake.
It is 1943. We are outside a small train station in occupied Paris. Regularly, beams of light from an on-coming locomotive headlight cuts through the darkness behind the large windows of the station. The beams of light and clacking train wheels leave ominous sensations.
Soon enough the MetroStage audience finds itself not merely an observing group of strangers witnessing a theater production. Under Kyd’s well-done skills as a story-teller, the audience becomes active, anxious participants as Kyd becomes de Bonheur who becomes a full cast of other characters. All to plead for survival. All de Bonheur asks as he looks directly out into the audience, is for them to “just” let him flee rather than consign him to a box car ride to oblivion. Why has he asked the audience? Well, in this production the audience has morphed to become French gendarme.
Over the course of the 85-minute evening the audience is tangled on its own rope as the performance moves from florid story telling with small moments of alarm to the reverse. The fright of de Bonheur becomes the focus and Scheherazade’s 1001 stories reside to the background. More and more is learned of de Bonheur. He is the very last alive of a band of actors; him and articles of clothing in an old theatrical suitcase.
By the time de Bonheur turns to walk away into his fate, the audience has watched perhaps three dozen different characters that range from wide; a hunchback to a tailor, a doctor, a baker, the baker’s wife, a soldier, a daughter, a vizar, a genie and the list goes on. A key character is a narrator named Jaafar. Characterizations are accomplished by Kyd as de Bonheur with small changes in his voice’s pitch and cadence and mannerisms along with assorted scarves and hats.
The unrushed, assured direction by multiple Helen Hayes nominee John Vreeke is understated; that is a virtuous choice. Vreeke doesn’t overpower or overwhelm which would cause someone to look away or mentally leave the production. His unfussy, non-melodramatic direction provides the opportunity for an audience to come under the spell of Kyd’s story-telling abilities. The lighting by Alexander Keen and Robert Garner’s sound design are masterful in their simplicity, artfullness and overall effect of dread. Over the course of the production terror grows as train whistles grow louder and louder, then stop. One wonders, “what next?”
In program notes, Carolyn Griffin, MetroStage artistic director wrote, “Storytelling is at its best with underlying themes of the power of the individual against all odds and the universal search for the meaning of life.” That is The Thousandth Night.
The Thousandth Night is a unique approach to contemplating the unthinkable of history and the real world. It is poignant, gripping and well-accomplished.
Photos provided by MetroStage
- Guy de Bonheur: Marcus Kyd
Production and Design Team
- Director: John Vreeke
- Original Scenic Design: James Kronzer
- Costume Design: Ivania Stack
- Lighting Design/Master Electrician: Alexander keen
- Sound Design: Robert Garner
- Stage Manager: William E. Cruttenden III
- Stage Manager (after 4/29): Marne Anderson
Disclaimer: MetroStage provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/10336.
David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on ShowBizRadio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, Alexandria's American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with Arlington's American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.