Solid Camelot Queens at Idle Muse
The Last Queen of Camelot, adapted and directed by Evan M. Jackson, is given its world premiere by Idle Muse Theatre Company (Jackson is also it's artistic director) at The Edge of Broadway theatre venue. The interesting question about adapting the Arthurian legend into any play adaptation is what do you put in and what do you leave out. Similar to when directing Shakespeare, the question when directing a play about the Arthurian legend is do you bring your own concept and vision to the piece or do you do it straight up? With this new production, Evan M. Jackson as an adapter he leaves out a lot of the Christian/Pagan struggles within the story, and as a director he primarily directs his production straight up.
I was excited for this retelling because according to the production's promos, it was going to focus on the relationship between Queen Guinevere and Morgan Le Fay in their battle for power, and the director/adaptor cast a woman as Merlin, so I thought I might see a feminist or post-feminist retelling or deconstructive investigation of the Arthurian legend, but with more lines for the woman playing Guinevere and Morgan, and Merlin being played by a woman, all the choices made by Jackson and the company's acting choices as well as the design team, from the set, to the costumes, to the fight choreography, all felt normal and safe. Nothing new here.
Caty Gordan Hall plays Queen Guinevere and Elizabeth MacDouglad plays Morgan Le Fay. They also are the two strongest actors in this production. Hall does a very good job acting within her character's arc. She's also one of the few actors onstage who is still reacting as she's listening, even with her back turned away from the other actors/characters. She does well until the play's final moments, when Guinevere had survived and won and had the Excalibur sword in her hand, her trepidation on her face was what was meant to happen isn't a very heroic moment. Elizabeth MacDouglad also does a nice job playing Morgan (even though once again Morgan is the "bad guy") and her characters acr, especially after the first couple of scenes when she is able to get out of the court scenes and then able to be more human does she really start to show her range. The rest of the cast does what they're instructed to do, as they do all the tropes this genre contains.
The overall result is a competent, average telling of Camelot that left me wondering why Jackson chose Camelot to adapt, why he adapted this way, why he directed it this way, and why he didn't get someone else to direct it. But to be fair, the opening night audience, some dressed in Ren Faire style clothes, seemed to really very much enjoy it, so if you are looking for a straightforward, traditional presentation of a show about the Camelot genre, this is the show for you. It wasn't the show for me.
The Last Queen of Camelot is playing Thursdays through Sundays at The Edge Off-Broadway - 1133 W. Catalpa Ave in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago. For tickets and information go to http://www.idlemuse.org/productions/lastqueen
For more reviews go to TheatreInChicago.com