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Everyman is probably the most superb and crafted of the vast genre of medieval morality plays. Perhaps the closest thing to real "folk drama," the morality play is charming by reason of a naivete of style combined with a poignant knowingness of human nature and foibles. An allegory of sin and redemption, Everyman is perhaps the most powerful and best known "idea play" in Western dramatic literature.
Yet the Canterbury Players on the whole have ravished both the letter and the spirit of the play. The group has chosen to use an insipid and unctuous modern rendition if the play, which obscures the beauty and the cleverness of the very early adaptation from the original Dutch, decked with a sparkling variety of rhyming couplets and an endearing archaism of language which is quite comprehensible to the modern ear.
Directors Prescott Evarts' and Dave Green's blocking is competent, and they make clever use of the Christ Church interior. But the acting and diction of most of the cast is reminiscent of a Sunday School recitation. Everyman is a delicate play, and the overstatement of the text must be moderated by a straight and unembellished delivery if the allegory is to be believable and effective as theater. Prescott Evarts overacts the central role of Everyman with false emotion and gestures that border on the ridiculous. He seems, as actor and director, to have no idea of the simplicity and almost matter-of-factness which the play must have. Perhaps he confused it with Hamlet. Sybil Kinnicutt simpers outrageously as Knowledge, an allegorical role which again demands a simple and unforced beauty.
The only person in the cast who seemed to have any understanding of the play was Ethan Emery who was marvelously sardonic in a bit of satirical humor with a Mephistopholean laugh, representing Material Goods. Robert Hauert seemed to show possibility in his brief appearance as Strength, but the other players were barely competent.
If the rest of the cast could have been understood and incorporated the childlike spirit and earnestness of the play that is killed by amateur histrionics, The Canterbury production could have been the success that the work deserves.
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