Mary Stuart

What if Hillary had duked it out against Sarah in 2008, instead of facing Barack? In 1800, Friedrich Schiller wrote just such a bilious fantasy contest between rival queens Elizabeth I of England and Mary of Scotland. Anne Allgood (Mary) and Suzanne Bouchard (Elizabeth) sell their characters' inner realities--namely that both are slaves to their office and culture. (Imprisoned Catholic Mary threatens the Protestant rule of her cousin, Elizabeth.) Like queen bees of rival hives ,they have much more in common with each other than with their swarms of drones (here male advisers dressed in well-tailored contemporary gray suits). Directed by Victor Pappas, newly translated by Peter Oswald, Mary Stuart is long, detail-rich, and speechy, requiring concentration to follow the double- and triple-crossings and to remember who's who. (ACT favorite R. Hamilton Wright plays the super-cynical, self-preserving court favorite Earl of Leicester, here in love with Mary.) And though realpolitik dictates that only one queen may survive, some wickedly funny moments leaven the mostly grim march to the gallows. Both the queens get a few jaw-dropping scenes of imperious rage and legitimacy-bashing, along with moments of touching humility. Politics today is tamer stuff. MARGARET FRIEDMAN [See Margaret's full review.]

Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Sept. 9. Continues through Oct. 9, 2011

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