Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Isaac's Eye
Urbanite Theater

Also see Bill's review of Master Class


Robbie May, Tony Stopperan (rear) and Ben Williamson
Urbanite Theatre brings its inaugural season to a close with Isaac's Eye by Lucas Hnath. This is a fascinating play, fiction grafted onto some true incidents involving scientists Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke. The play even clarifies what is fact and what is not, which might seem as though it would add confusion, but the play is easy to follow. The major themes are love-ego and professional rivalry. This is not the most focused play I have ever seen, as minor themes come and go throughout the play, but my interest rarely flagged during its two hour running time. Nothing I read in advance gave any indication of how entertaining and thought provoking this play is.

The play is presented on a thrust stage, with the audience on three sides effectively putting large portions of the action closer to us. All of the characters are imaginatively drawn, and the acting is up to the challenges of presenting complex individuals. Ben Williamson plays Isaac Newton: young, petulant and sure he is right, especially when he isn't. He is our hero, but easy to dislike at times. Robbie May plays Robert Hooke: egotistical, utterly charming, the villain of the piece. With Mr. May's fine performance, the audience loves him much more than we should. Kim Stevenson plays Catherine, caught between both scientists. She is quite a bit younger than the character yet totally believable as a woman 10 years older than Isaac. Tony Stopperan is the narrator who doubles as a dying man, excellent in both roles.

Credit for all of this fine acting goes to excellent direction by Vincent Carlson Brown. His biography identifies him as Artistic Director of Nebraska Shakespeare. It is interesting how a new small theater company has been able to attract outstanding artists from far away. The scenic design by Seth Graham brings immediacy to the play's action. He is also credited as technical director. The costumes by Becky Leigh are outstanding, mostly modern with touches to suggest ancient times for Isaac and Catherine, more authentically 17th century with touches of modern for Robert, and modern for the narrator with a cloak and hat of the period to quickly become the dying man. Patricia Delorey is credited as voice and diction coach, a role she brilliantly performs for Asolo Rep in productions that call for accents or speech that defines an era. My hearing is not the best, but I understood every single line in the play and there were no microphones. Bravo to Patricia Delorey, voice and diction coach.

Urbanite Theatre has presented three productions in its first season, each challenging in some way. Each has left me thinking about the themes, and all of the acting has been on a very high level aided by great directing. The entire season can only be described as an auspicious launch. In talking with Brendan Regan, one of the company directors, I got a hint that there might be some winter activity. I look forward to more from Urbanite, as all three productions have been highlights of a fine theater season in Florida.

Urbanite Theatre presents Isaac's Eye through September 6, 2015, at 1487 2nd St. Sarasota, FL 34326. Visit www.urbanitetheatre.com for more information.

Cast: Robert Hooke: Robbie May*
Isaac Newton: Ben Williamson*
Catherine: Kim Stevenson
Narrator/Dying Man: Tony Stopperan
*=Member of Actor's Equity Association.

Director: Vincent Carlson Brown
Stage Manager: Amanda LaForge
Scenic Design and Technical Director: Seth Graham
Costume Design: Becky Leigh
Property Master: Annette Breazeale
Dramaturg: Lydia Bovowicz
Voice and Diction Coach: Patricia Delorey

Photo Credit: Don Daly Photo.com

--William S. Oser


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