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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Jumpers at ACT

Jumpers
David Pichette and
John Patrick Lowrie

Though Tom Stoppard's 1972 play Jumpers has received critical acclaim and award nominations in its recent London and Broadway revivals, it has never been a huge audience favorite, especially in the U.S. Judging from the polite but tepid opening night response to director Jeff Steitzer's production at ACT, Seattle audiences aren't going to be doing any cartwheels over it either.

Jumpers is still fairly relevant in today's political climate, as it plays out its philosophical and moral debates, but there is too much talk, talk, talk and too little action in this early play by the author of such far superior works as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and The Real Thing. Director Steitzer tries to keep the talk snappy and mines the available laughs with his customary ease, but there are still a lot of arid stretches in the two and one half hour performance.

The basic plot concerns the murder of an acrobat at a party thrown by Dotty, a certifiably mad ex-nightclub singer, in celebration of the accession of a new Radical Liberal government. Dotty's menfolk include her resolutely academic and stuffy husband George, his amoral protégé Archie, and an eccentric cop named Bones who could easily be Dotty's biggest fan. Ultimately, though, what it all boils down to is endless dictation of philosophical prattle by George, naughty romping by Dotty and Archie, broad comic detective antics, the odd musical outburst, and some spiffy acrobatics.

David Pichette as George brings sincerity, passion, and lung power to George's interminable speeches, and R. Hamilton Wright is suitably slimy as Archie, but both have had finer hours and better scripts to work with. Erika Rolfstrud's Dotty lacks the panache to make us believe that Dotty might once have been a successful chanteuse, and simply lacks the sort of star power that such a role (originally essayed by Dame Diana Rigg) requires. As Bones, John Patrick Lowrie is something of a comedic oasis in the desert, and he has a moment in drag that truly tickles the funny bone. Seŕn G. Griffin sparkles in his brief role as Crouch, though the captivating Julie Briskman is wasted as a non-speaking stenographer. The acrobatic jumpers themselves are a game and agile lot, lead by the always comically charged Richard Gray, who doubles as the production's musical director.

Matthew Smucker's splendid scenic design, Alex Berry's satisfying lighting, Marcia Dixcy Jory's apt costumes, and Dominic CodyKramers' amusing sound design all deliver the goods. What a pity then that their worthy efforts, and indeed those of all hands, were put to use on such an overrated play.

Jumpers runs through September 19 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St. in downtown Seattle. For further information visit ACT's website at www.acttheatre.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David-Edward Hughes



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