Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of How to Write a New Book for the Bible
The year is 1634, 15 years into the Thirty Years' War between the Holy Roman Empire and various European factions. Albrecht Wallenstein (Steve Pickering) serves as the supreme commander of the Emperor's armies, but he's beginning to consider whether making a deal with the enemy Swedes wouldn't be a better path in the long run than continuing to fight without an immediate goal. (One never feels he's selling out for his personal gain; he wants to stop the bloodshed so it won't continue for another 15 years.) More to the point, the Emperor is in Vienna and has no firsthand knowledge of the battle, so Wallenstein comes to think that defending the empire is not the same thing as unquestioning allegiance to the Emperor.
Pinsky's adaptation has a distinctly modern flavor: Wallenstein periodically breaks the fourth wall and provides commentary to the audience. To eliminate any sense of dusty, forgotten history, he opens the play with "Forget about the Thirty Years' War!" The heart of the tragedy is not unique to any single war or individual soldier, as he proves with his offhand remarks about the truth or fabrications of the play itself.
Anchored by Pickering's muscular performance, the play benefits from a strong cast creating indelible characters under Kahn's guidance. Most notable are Octavio Palladini (Robert Sicular), who balances his friendship with Wallenstein with the knowledge that his position would rise if Wallenstein were to fall; Octavio's idealistic son Max (Nick Dillenburg); Wallenstein's imperious sister, Countess Czerny (Diane D'Aquila); and Philip Goodwin in two vastly different roles, the Emperor's envoy and the keeper of an imperial fortress.
The action takes place on the same forbidding set (by Blythe R.D. Quinlan) as Coriolanus, the other half of the repertory, but the tone of the two plays is quite different. Where Shakespeare's drama focuses less on the inner life of its central character and more on the class struggle, Wallenstein is quieter and more thoughtful despite its setting on and near the battlefield.
Shakespeare Theatre Company