Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

A Royally Entertaining Mary Stuart Holds Court
at ACT Theatre

Also see David's review of Take Me America and Interview with Tommy Tune

Suzanne Bouchard, Allan Michael Barlow and Anne Allgood
Even with the Seattle fall theatre season so newly arrived, it seems safe to say that ACT Theatre has a must-see event on its hands with the Peter Oswald version of Mary Stuart which opened last week. Victor Pappas has expertly directed a crême de la crême cast in this show, which was a sensation on Broadway and the West End. History has never been as lively or intoxicating as it is in this production, headed by the heart-wrenching Anne Allgood as Mary, Queen of Scotland, and the commanding Suzanne Bouchard as Elizabeth Tudor.

Delve into your history books for more background on the plot, but suffice to say that, after a necessarily slow start to set up the who's who of it, Oswald's adaptation envelopes us in the intrigues surrounding Mary's incarceration in England on charges relating to the death of her husband, but actually pertaining more to the threat to Elizabeth of a Catholic led rebellion which would place Mary in the power position. Queens or not, the men in these royal ladies' lives are still the key movers and shakers, and their plotting and machinations are as current as today's political headlines.

Allgood is a quiet tigress of a Mary, who springs into attack mode when reasoning fails. Bouchard is the vain-glorious Elizabeth you anticipate, then surprises with insights into the monarch's vulnerable aspects. Their lengthy scene together is all one hopes it will be, each actress spurring the other on to set the stage ablaze with their most deft performances. Very nearly stealing the show, however, is Joshua Carter as Mortimer, a savory performance of encroaching madness in the service of Mary, whom he ultimately repels. R. Hamilton Wright has his finest hour in recent memory with a sterling performance as Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. Peter Crook is spellbinding as the crafty Lord Burleigh, and Marianne Owen creates a starchily sympathetic figure as Mary's devoted Nurse Hanna. Kudos as well to the well-crafted work of Allan Michael Barlow as Mary's guardian Amias Paulet, Terry Edward Moore as Mary's house steward Melvil, and Allen Fitzpatrick as George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. Pappas, always an actor's director par excellence simply has outdone himself with this amazing company.

Robert A Dahlstrom's set easily overcomes the challenges of staging in the intimate Allen Theatre, with a design that is opulent yet understated. ML Geiger's lighting design is a feast for the eyes, and Frances Kenny's cunningly clever costuming has the Queens in traditional garb, while the rest of the cast is in businessman modern dress.

If any show in recent memory has made me want to pay it a return visit, it would be Mary Stuart. A rousing cheer to one and all for a job masterfully done!

Mary Stuart

performs at ACT through October 9th. For tickets or information, contact the ACT box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at

Photo: Chris Bennion

- David Edward Hughes

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