Salomania at the Aurora

Dave and I saw Mark Jackson’s new play Salomania at the Aurora Theater last weekend. It’s a terrific piece of theater. I’m nearing a deadline so I can’t take the time to write much about it, but this is the last weekend so I wanted to at least mention that it’s well worth seeing.

What’s most awesome about the play is the staging. The play itself is something of a collage of scenes that take place in a number of very different locations — a World War I battlefield, a London courtroom, a pub, the central character’s memories and fantasies, to name a few. I thought the dialogue and characterizations were mostly rather weak and two-dimensional, but the staging is brilliant and makes it all work. The way that the scenes are juxtaposed — often even superimposed — and played out on Nina Ball’s wonderful set is consistently breathtaking and beautiful.

Seven actors play all the parts. The cast is consistently good. Madeline H.D. Brown is terrific as Maud Allen, the controversial dancer whose libel suit against a reactionary newspaper is the center of the play.

Among the others, I thought Kevin Clarke was a particular standout, bouncing back and forth deftly among three (or was it four?) different roles and making them all distinctive and engaging. (He did a similar task in Mark Jackson’s God’s Plot at Shotgun Players a while back, and with similar panache.)

I think this is only the second play of Mr. Jackson’s I’ve seen, the other being God’s Plot, and I thought that play had similar weaknesses in the writing but phenomenal strengths in the staging. But we’ve seen a few other plays directed by him, and they’ve all been strikingly staged and acted. I’d say Mr. Jackson hasn’t found his voice yet as a writer, but as a director he’s amazing.

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