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Swanwhite, Strindberg's little joke on the Medieval romance, was produced at the Ex this weekend. It was the most ambitious failure there in some time.
Joel DeMott directed and designed the show. She did an excellent job with the blocking and set, thereby proving once again that the Ex need not be used solely for Beckett. But Miss DeMott (following Strindberg) failed to decide whether the play was to be treated as camp or lyric poetry, and in the confusion she staged something that was often silly.
John Munger as the Duke was the symbol of the conflict. His lines are grandiloquent -- flatulent as a bursting pig's blatter, but grandiloquent. Munger proclaims them with full voice, but he is physically too small for the part. There is something wonderfully absurd about his talk of war and glory. If he is meant to be funny, the audience should be given some hint of it before the whole affair becomes so ridiculous that laughter is the only way out.
When Swanwhite (Patricia Hawkins) and the Prince (Tom King) appear, it is easy to see why Miss DeMott was confused. Their scenes together were dulcet and graced with a compelling sincerity. Both were good on stage, and at times Miss Hawkins managed an intensity of voice and expression which lifted her performance out of the production. Had the rest of the play been done slapstick, they could not have had their poety. But what tedium while we wait for them to enter!
The gaggle of maids, stepmothers, gardeners and wretched young kings contributed nothing to the play but kinetic energy. What they did they did too loudly and coarsely.
Doung Chandler performed numerous tricks with the lighting, some interesting and all, or almost all, distracting. In his work, as with the rest of the play, it was too long between interesting effects.
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