Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
In a divisive political climate, Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company has decided to revisit the lessons of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table through a majestic production of Camelot, powered by strong voices and grounded in humanity rather than pageantry.
Director Alan Paul has worked with his design team, specifically scenic designer Walt Spangler, to root Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's version of the story of Arthur's idealistic vision for England in its human drama instead of elaborate scenery. With the exception of a metallic sculpture representing twisted trees in a forest, Spangler's set is plain wood, timeless instead of specifically medieval, with raised platforms to display jousters in one scene. Ana Kuzmanic's costumes provide the color and specific context.
Paul's straightforward staging in Sidney Harman Hall also plays up how young the three central characters are at the outset, before life and fate rough them up. Arthur (Ken Clark) is still finding his way as a ruler, having had no training except the life lessons conveyed by Merlyn (company stalwart Ted van Griethuysen, whose presence lingers even when he's not onstage). Guenevere (Alexandra Silber) is imperious in her fantasies of royal life, untainted by reality. (Listen to the lyrics of "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood," as she spins naïvely bloodthirsty fantasies of courtly love.) Lancelot (Nick Fitzer) is so assured of his own saintliness, he's insufferable to everyone around him except Arthur.
Silber's radiant voice is at the heart of the production, with strong support from Clark and Fitzer. Patrick Vaill lights up his scenes as a punkish Mordred, while beloved company member Floyd King is an affectionately addled King Pellinore (complete with invisible dog).
Choreographer Michele Lynch fills the stage with the frolicking of "The Lusty Month of May" and finds subtle action in the tableaux of "The Jousts" and "Guenevere."
Shakespeare Theatre Company