Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Set in Buckingham Palace and Balmoral Castle, The Audience is centered on the weekly twenty-minute audiences given each Tuesday by Queen Elizabeth II to the prime minister currently in office. The play takes us through the long list of Prime Ministers who have served from her accession in 1952 to the present day. (Though there is a total of twelve, three are not included in the play.)
Queen Elizabeth II is played by Karen MacDonald. There is a great strength of character, an intelligence, and a calm but keen sense of observation in her portrayal. The most interesting aspect of this play is that the lead actress must go from the queen's coronation at the age of 25 to her present-day age (making her 86 when the play was written), with stops along the way in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. These dates do not necessarily follow any chronological order, so MacDonald's ability to change the age of her character must be lightning fast, and all of it is brilliantly done.
We sometimes visit with a young Elizabeth (15-year-old Skye Alyssa Friedman) who yearns to be free of the bonds of her title and the duties that lie ahead. She would very much like to lead a normal life. Friedman is a promising young actress. Her yearning is reflected briefly in the adult Elizabeth who values her role as wife and mother and would perhaps be happy on a secluded farm away from it all. She is, however, keenly driven by her total belief that her coronation is by God's will, and that she is compelled to serve her country and its people to the best of her ability until the end of her days.
A string of talented local and non-local actors take the stage as assorted prime ministers. I particularly enjoyed Colin McPhillamy as Winston Churchill and Rod McLachlan as Harold Wilson, but found Henny Russell frightfully heavy-handed as Margaret Thatcher.
During the play the character of Queen Elizabeth II shares no great personal revelations or disclosures. The plot has no twists and turns. I also don't believe there is anything mentioned about Queen Elizabeth II or the featured prime ministers that I had not already read in my limited exposure to these subjects. So, though this is a masterfully acted play by MacDonald, the audience of The Audience may find it feels a bit drylike something they may or may not want to watch on the History Channel on TV.
The Audience will be appearing at Maltz Jupiter Theatre through November 6, 2016. Maltz Jupiter Theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, Florida. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-2223, or 800/ 445-1666, 800/ 445-1666 FREE, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
*Designates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
^Designates a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an independent national labor union.
+Designates member of the United Scenic Artists, a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople.