Iannone Writes a Riveting Rivalry
Theater RED's 'Seeds of Banquo'
By Selena Milewski
Aug. 17, 2015
“I fear your ambition,” says 19th-century actor Lawrence Barrett to Edwin Booth. “And I fear your fall from grace,” says Booth to Barrett. The dynamic between these two characters, masterfully brought to life by Cory Jefferson Hagen (Barrett) and John Mundschau Glowacki (Booth), forms a riveting centerpiece to Angela Iannone’s The Seeds of Banquo. The play is the fourth in her Edwin Booth Play Cycle, and chronicles the great American actor’s 1870 production of Macbeth. The story of the cursed Scottish king and Booth’s own tragic family situation (his brother was John Wilkes) are as deftly entwined as the fibers in Marshall Anderson’s exquisite Victorian costumes. A sign of his almost obsessive devotion to art, Edwin insists on rehearsing even as his second wife undergoes a difficult and bloody childbirth.
Despite its tragic subject matter, Iannone’s script is never heavy handed and humorous moments abound as the characters banter about everything from medieval men’s fashion to the nature of theatrical truth.
Brilliant performances buttress the dialogue at every turn. Glowacki’s star turn is fervent and fevered; his voice and expression well convey an actor who “shares his emotions in a way that is almost as intimate as a lover.” As Lawrence—playing Banquo in Booth’s production—Hagen is utterly believable as a fine actor doomed to live in the shadow of his dear friend, and determined to have a son at any cost. Shasha Katherine Sigel is charming and appropriately naïve as his mistress who can never quite be pitied as her own ambition rivals that of the men around her. Theater RED’s cofounder Marcee Doherty-Elst is solid as Mrs. DP Bowers, the leading lady in Booth’s production; hers are some of the most incisive observations about the effect the almost deified actor has on those he worked with, and Doherty-Elst’s gravitas befits the character of the grande dame famous in her own right. Last but not least, Bryan Quinn is superb as Mr. Owen Fawcett, a second-string actor who just happens to spend a great deal of time around the Booth Theatre and thus happens to become close to its denizens. The sprightly Quinn delights as a performer of lesser fame and ego who serves as insightful everyman opposite the profession’s colossi.
Through Aug. 23 at Soulstice Theatre, 3770 S. Pennsylvania Ave., St. Francis. For tickets visittheaterred.com.
Love affair with long dead man fuels Iannone's triumph
By Dave Begel [RSS Feed] [Twitter Feed]
Photography: Cassius Alexander Cox
E-mail author | Author bio
More articles by Dave Begel
Published Aug. 14, 2015 at 10:06 a.m.
Angela Iannone, one of the finest actors ever to grace a stage in Milwaukee, has been engaged in a love affair for the past six years with a man who died when he was only 59 years old.
Not only that, but the man died in June 1893.
Edwin Booth was his name, the finest actor of his time, the brother of the man who killed Abraham Lincoln and the object of desire for Iannone who has crafted a series of play about this lover -- "The Edwin Booth Cycle."
Watching the latest effort, "The Seeds of Banquo," opened at Soulstice Theatre by Theater Red Thursday night, made me wish that I loved somebody so much that I could write a play like this.
She has steeped herself in the life of Booth and has found his strength and weaknesses and has let her love flourish in this smart and sensitive and very funny production.
The setting is a rehearsal of "Macbeth," of course starring Booth as Macbeth.
Booth, played by John Mundschau Glowacki, is in rehearsals with his friend and actor Lawrence Barrett played by Cory Jefferson Hagen, who is unsure of exactly what role or roles Booth has in mind for him.
Mrs. Elizabeth Bowers, played magnificent imperiousness by Marcee Doherty-Elst is Lady Macbeth and Mr. Owen Fawcett, played by Bryan Quinn, stumbles into the rehearsal and is handed many other roles.
The story ranges far and wide, always focused on Booth who has a severe ego, a sly sense of humor and an enraptured love of the details of a theatrical production. There is a confluence of lives, both private and personal, each of which provides both joys and sorrows for this magnificent talent.
Like a Brando or James Dean, Booth is a man with almost unbounded talent but he has his devils and he struggles to both keep them at bay and to fuel his creative heart. Like all good stories about heroic men, this one has more than a bit of the eternal examination of what it means to be or to have a friend. The relationship between Booth and Barrett is a complex one with neither pleasures nor pains completely.
This production kicks off the 2015-16 theater season in Milwaukee and it has set a high bar for all that is to come.
Glowacki is perfect for Iannone's Booth. He is gorgeous, but not in a conventional way. He resembles nothing so much as a sly and tortured nobleman for whom the ordinary is never good enough. He is pale and sinewy and is marvelously at home with the text, which Iannone has inventively mixed with common speech and the words of Shakespeare.
Doherty-Elst, Quinn and Hagen each brings a special and very specific attitude to their characters.It is the skill of the playwright, who also directed this play, that the stage is populated by such a clear variety of people.
Sasha Katharine Sigel just about steals the show as Miss Minna Gale, a young actor who has an affair with Barrett in order to slide her way into the play with the man she idolizes. She is saucy and intemperate and the love scene between her and Booth is as full of sex appeal as anything you will ever see. There is no nudity and almost no physical contact.
The two of them look deeply into each other's eyes, slightly parted lips separated by the space of a hummingbird's wing and yet, they never touch.
If you tell someone that you are in love with a person who's been dead for over a century, and if you really mean it, as Iannone does, there are those who might call you crazy.But art is often about being a little crazy and this production is theatrical art at its highest.
"It is the skill of the playwright, who also directed this production, that the stage is populated by such a clear variety of people."
"Iannone's intelligent, sharp-witted and sophisticated play keeps the audience both attentive and smiling, with touches of keen humor-a class act in every sense. "
by Angela Iannone
"Theatrical art at its highest"
All photos by Cassius Alexander Cox
The Seeds of Banquo
Premiere- Theater RED, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2015
Broadway World Review:: Iannone Uncovers Edwin Booth's Life at Theater RED's World Premiere
👤by Peggy Sue Dunigan
Milwaukee's TheateRED begins their 2015-2016 season titled "We All Have Blood On Our Hands," with a World Premiere written by one of the city's acclaimed actors and directors,Angela Iannone. Iannone constructs a play, The Seed of Banquo, based on the historical facts of American theater great Edwin Booth, and yes, also the brother of the infamous John Wilkes Booth. Edwin Booth opened his theatre in 1868, and then directed, designed and starred in the plays he choose to produce. In Iannone's The Seeds of Banquo, his historical and personal stage design, prompt book and blocking were used to recreate Booth's original production, including the stage back drop, while she intermingles Booth's personal life to the point where lines in Shakespeare's Macbeth might easily be quoted by the individual Booth regarding his own relations.
When theatergoers enter the lobby at Soulstice Theater in Saint Francis, vintage photographs of the historical figures in the play can be seen. These pictures resemble the cast members with an uncanny likeness--John Mundschau Glowacki appears as charismatic and slim as Edwin Booth. In the role of Booth's rival Lawrence Barrett, Cory Jefferson Hagen matches Glowacki's intensity with calm precision. Playing another actor from a competing theater, Bryan Quinn inhabits an affable and humorous Owen Fawcett. To round out the cast, Theatre RED Co-Founder Marcie Doherty-Elst recreates the pivotal role of Mrs. DP Bowers while Sasha Katherine Sigel embodies the young actress trying to learn from the revered Booth, Minna Gale.
In the fascinating historical drama, the cast begins by rehearsing Macbeth while Booth and Barrett discuss waiting for Booth's wife to bear his child, hopefully a son. Fawcett appears and worries about the curse of performing Macbeth,naming the play out loud in the theater. This premise intertwines historical fact and fiction in a humorous yet poignatnt drama with a Booth "who shares his emotions as intimate as a lover."
Iannone's intelligent, sharp-witted and sophisticated play keeps the audience both attentive and smiling with touches of keen humor--a class act in every sense. By linking Booth the to Scottish king, and Barrett with Shakespeare's character of Banquo, the prophecies in Macbeth and foretold by the three witches ring true for these two dear friends, Booth and Barrett, Macbeth and then Banquo. While Macbeth will be the new Scottish royal, Banquo will carry the royal lineage.
For a small production, the costumes impress the audience, as the does the acting. A production directed by the playwright Iannone reaps rewards, placing the best investments in her cast and play, an incredible twist on Shakespeare and this rather tormented Booth, who achieved great fame as a actor while his personal life suffered. Iannone also incorporates how these actors viewed American theatrical life in the late 19th century when Barrett explains to the novice Gale, "Telling the truth about your heart and soul is acting."
What a fascinating, funny and riveting play--theatergoers will wish that the remaining plays in Iannone's cycle could be seen. Perhaps another possibility for these plays could be a two-day production performing the entire cycle, or as in British playwirght Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests, Iannone's Booth plays could be rotated during one producition run. Combining historical truths reflecing Booth's life in American theater with classic Shakespeare adds to this compelling professional production drawing on theatrical history and theory. Congratulations to TheateRED and Iannone along with their marvelous cast in this fourth new play to uncover Booth's life and light with such dramatic flair.
TheateRED presents Angela Iannone's World Premiere The Seeds of Banquo at Soulstice Theater, 3770 South Pennsylvania Avenue through Sunday, August 23. A portion of the proceeds from all ticket sales will be donated to New York's The Players Preservation Fund, an organization dedicated to restoring and preseving the home of The Players, where the Edwin Booth's archives can be acessed. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.theaterred.com.