While helping to prepare a moderately epic meal on Sunday – the snow enabling the whole Tline clan to gather and eat at the same time for the first time in what seemed like eons – I had an unfortunate cheese grater accident that ripped a fairly sizable chunk out of the tip of my right index finger. The resultant bandages are making typing quickly a bit of a challenge – resulting in numerous ‘n’s turning into ‘m’s – so I apologize for any typos that may follow.
Luckily, I had already spent many hours out in the glorious snow by that point, my favorite time being wandering through the still significant blizzard early Saturday afternoon. I hope you enjoyed the weather as well.
Before the deluge of white began, two-thirds of the clan had managed to make it out to “A Servant of Two Masters” on Friday. Maybe it was because it had been more than a month since I’d seen a show or maybe it was because the house was packed with an overflow crowd of theater lovers who managed to be enthusiastic without being obnoxious but, whatever the reason, I left the show with an irrational urge to heap praise on the production and all involved. As I tend to refrain from such gushing torrents of positivity (I think they revoke your critics card if you do that too often), I’m going to narrow my praise to three specific people.
Of course, I have to mention Richard Koch who showed extreme dexterity and a depth of silliness in his portrayal of the titular servant. Mr. Koch has done an amazing job playing one of the Marx Brothers before but, to me, this role was kind of like all three of them rolled into one. Koch was adroit at projecting the sarcastic wit, the scatological and slapstick humor, some rapid-fire wordplay and even the kernel of dignity and pride that the role required. Just as with last season’s “Richard III,” this was a production that shined the spotlight distinctly on one of Richmond’s finest talents and Richard was more than up to the challenge.
I was delightfully surprised by the performance of Christina Billew, who brought an extravagant physicality to her role as Clarice, the young betrothed maiden whose life becomes a torrent of conflicting emotions. Her kewpie-doll good looks – enhanced by fabulous make-up – served her character well but it was her commitment to the extremes of the situations that enlivened all of her scenes. I don’t know how long Christina has been in and around Richmond – for quite a time I think – but I saw her in a completely new light on Friday. I hope to see her on stage again soon.
Finally, director James Ricks does a fantastic job of shaping the frantic and frivolous into a sharp and coherent whole. The action moved at a brisk pace that enhanced the fun and there were several moments – even in the midst of Richard’s most manic machinations – where a steady hand could be sensed guiding the proceedings. I think Mr. Ricks has always done fine work but this show – added to the good stuff I heard about “Shining City” – made me add him to the short list of directors whose next production I will look for with heightened anticipation.
Of course, there were many other highlights in this production – the hilarious and sumptuous Lyddall Bugg, the bravado of Matt Hackman, the flamboyant costumes by Rebecca Cairns, etc. etc. – but I want to keep the fever of my enthusiasm at a low boil. If you haven’t seen this production, you owe it to yourself to go and be thoroughly entertained.