Praise

From Shuttleworth on Shakespeare’s review of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

This Midsummer is completely delightful; I can enthusiastically recommend that any of you take an evening and go see it. Now, don’t get the wrong idea—it’s a low-budget production (the set consists of a handful of coat racks in a plain studio, and the costumes seem to be the actors’ own pyjamas), but the acting is mostly hilarious and often excellent. In particular, these six are good slapstickers, a must for Midsummer, and they’re also stellar at convincing you that that each character they play (and they each play more than a few) is a different person. The conceit of every actor having rehearsed every part is cute, and I imagine it was a massive amount of extra work for the cast, but it doesn’t get in the way of the heart of a fast-paced, highly enjoyable little Midsummer. Best $18 I’ve spent on entertainment in ages.

From Mad Shakespeare’s review of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

It might be hard, when switching roles every performance, to really succeed in bringing a character to life, but Richards’ Puck and Kirtland’s Bottom stole the show, between them providing the magic that “bodies forth” director Geduld’s Dream into a very entertaining evening.

From playshakespeare.com’s review of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

…the cast is uniformly funny and engaging…

From nytheatre.com’s review of “The Weir”

Conor McPherson’s The Weir is easily one of the most celebrated new plays of the past 20 years … Folding Chair Classical Theatre’s remounting of this lovely and elegiac play is an excellent opportunity to catch a faithful rendition of this sometimes chilling, sometimes sentimental piece that appears to be entrenching itself into the modern Western Canon … I was glad to see the script as well served as it was.

The WeirFolding Chair’s production is blessed with a capable and astute cast. Angus Hepburn is marvelous as Jack—he is at once jolly and morose, playful and mournful (in other words, quintessentially Irish), and his entirely convincing performance serves as an anchor for the proceedings. Ian Gould creates a charmingly sincere, well-meaning, yet sad character with Brendan the barkeep. Lisa Blankenship’s Valerie rings completely true and her tale towards the end is haunting in every sense. Richard Ryan Cowden succeeds in creating an ambitious, perhaps pompous, man with Finbar, who never tilts into caricature and remains sympathetic and vulnerable throughout. And Gowan Campbell’s Jim is a simple, quiet man, whose somewhat thick demeanor belies a watchful and understanding soul. … never once do you really feel like you’re watching actors delivering lines—it’s an effective fly-on-the-wall experience.

What little set there is goes a long way towards portraying the world of the play—and hats off to Geduld for creating so much with so little … Folding Chair … deserves ample credit for giving us such a sincere and well played remount. I look forward to seeing more from this company in the future.

From offoffonline.com’s review of “The Weir”

The Folding Chair Theatre Company presents a thoughtful, engaging production of The Weir by Connor McPherson at the Access Theatre. Ably directed in a simple loft space by Marcus Geduld, this poetic piece unfolds at the leisurely pace of bar talk among seasoned drinkers…

Geduld’s staging is thoughtful and makes the best use of the space, while giving the actors room to let their characters evolve. The actors, using Irish accents that to my ear sound close enough if not perfect, are all excellent, well suited each to their roles.

Email from Eric Nightengale, Artistic Director of 78th Street Theatre Lab, 1995 – 2008.

["The Weir"] was a wonderful evening of theatre, the best work I have seen out of Folding Chair — and that is saying a lot. I came to the show with some apprehension as I love the play, loved the Broadway production, and didn’t really want that memory tampered with. However it was a joy to rediscover the piece through your production, which in many ways was stronger than [Ian] Rickson’s. What a tremendously talented and well-matched cast! Pitch-perfect staging, impeccable understanding of the tempo and cadence of the play’s language, and, above all, the most active listening I’ve seen on stage in a generation. Huzzah, Huzzah, Huzzah!

From nytheatre.com’s review of “Pericles”

…Armed only with a guitar and one chair, six actors in street clothes attempt to tackle Shakespeare’s later romance in a plain room without the aid of a set, lights, sound, costumes, or props. Thankfully, they still have their talent, for this company has nonetheless found a way to present a thoroughly enjoyable production filled with spirit, clarity, and style.

pericles_smallOne would think this would make a tricky play to stage given what essentially amounts to no design elements whatsoever: the 30-plus characters and varied exotic settings seem instead to beg for a production teeming with pageantry and pomp. But Folding Chair’s ensemble proves this isn’t necessary, and neither is elaborate stage imagery or superimposed thematic interpretations. Director Marcus Geduld has staged this work as simply as possible in a manner that feels organic and natural and truly delivers—as the company’s humble mission statement indicates—a story told clearly using only the actors and the text. When Geduld does add stylization—as when the actors toss Pericles around to indicate the windswept seas—he does so in a way that is both economical and effective.

But simple isn’t easy. Such an approach leaves nothing for the actors to hide behind, so it’s good that this group has no reason to hide. The troupe as whole—composed of actors James Arden, Lisa Blankenship, Gowan Campbell, Larry Giantonio, Francine Margolis, and Josh Thelin—bring an impressive familiarity and facility with handling Shakespeare on the stage as well as a palpable love for the material, working together to create a very tight and impressive ensemble. Like everything about this production, the performance style and choices are direct and simple, with the actors generally sticking to the meter of the verse and creating characters and making choices that logically extend from the text. Anchoring the show in particular is Arden in the title role, who brings an optimism and decency to Pericles without making him seem too foolish or naïve.

pericles_small02It may all sound a bit pedestrian and uninspired in some ways, but for all its starkness, this production has extracted many surprisingly inventive moments from the text that never seem tacked on or forced. When a group of fishermen discover Pericles washed ashore at Pentapolis in what could be a throwaway scene full of exposition, they are transformed here into a family unit that allows for some wonderful sibling interactions. And later, when the knights of Pentapolis are celebrating the contest to win the hand of Pericles’s future wife, Thaisa, the dancing scene is delivered with such good cheer and raucous merriment that we understand at once that the court of good Simonides is not the dangerous and corrupt court of Antiochus.

It all works well for this rather unusual Shakespeare play, a play that is full of so many twists and surprises. Pericles may not be considered one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, but it’s still a good one, and this tale about dealing with the vicissitudes of fortune feels very resonant at this particular time. So does this production—it’s good to know that if you ever find yourself washed ashore and stripped of all your worldly possessions you can still put up a great play.

From The Happiest Medium’s review of “The Duchess of Malfi”

In a time when one goes to theatre and dramatic sets are used to make up for mediocre acting so that something kind will at least be said in the review, the first thought that I had when taking my seat at Folding Chair Classical Theatre’s production of The Duchess of Malfi was one of confusion. Were they really set up? Where was the set? A bare stage with minimal spotlights?

Boy, was I in for a treat. Let me say up front that this was a great production …The Duchess [was] played with a beauty and strength by Lisa Blankenship …a powerful and mesmerizing Stewart Walker [played her brother Ferdinand] and …an amazing Gowan Campbell [played Bosola]…

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…I was riveted. …I really felt that kudos should be given to director Marcus Geduld for taking a piece and doing something very different – yet very simple – with it and making us enjoy it so much. The combat swords, like the drinks, were all mimed, keeping with the consistency that had already been established. Even the murders of the children, their strangulations were mimed (no fake babies or child actors) – but it was enough to make one cringe, and be believable.

With performances especially from Blankenship, Walker, and Campbell, this show became so much larger than any set could have given it; and took it back to the roots of how it might have been performed back in the 1600’s … with nothing but the actors, their voices, and the words of the playwrigh … taking each moment and allowing it to spiral into chaos  – and bringing the audience with it, thrilled and horrified. Well done.

From Backstage’s review of “Our Country’s Good”

[Folding Chair's] bracing revival of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good  … features a cast of 10 — most playing multiple roles — barefoot and in street clothes, with the only costume elements being military dress coats worn to designate those characters who are members of the Royal Navy or Marines. It’s a “light up, lights down” design, with the set consisting merely of two benches, plus five wooden cubes holding the small number of carefully chosen props.

ocg01…It’s difficult to single out any one actor, as the entire cast delivers with passion and intelligence in portraying the conflicts among the characters as they are transformed by — dare I say it — the magic of the theatre. “Our Country’s Good” is all about the power of storytelling to show us to ourselves in new and novel ways, and Folding Chairs’ production is a brisk and supple demonstration of this theme.

…ample credit must go to director Marcus Geduld, also the company’s artistic director, for eliciting such strong and moving performances.

From PBS’ Theatre Talk blog (New Theatre Corps) review of “Our Country’s Good”

Folding Chair Classical Theatre’s latest “bare bones” production… [is a] superbly directed and acted performance. If you want to see a cast that will wow you with their investment in the material instead of wowing you with a big budget, you can’t go wrong with this one. …from start to finish, Folding Chair Classical Theatre’s take on the story never ceases to grip, entertain, and delight.

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Our Country’s Good is full of wonderful characters brought to life by a well-disciplined, hard-working and skillful ensemble. …Thanks to vocal coach Susan Stillman, the British, Irish and Malagasy (from Madagascar) dialects are superb. …Folding Chair has it all worked out so that everything is clear, even in the complexity of the script and the staging.

From PBS’ Theatre Talk blog (New Theatre Corps) review of “Cymbeline”

Folding Chair Classical Theatre’s production of Cymbeline is a wonderful romp into British history and a razzle-dazzle display of acting talent.

cymbeline01It’s been called both a tragedy and a romance, but in the hands of the cast, it’s nothing short of an incredible feat in skill and entertainment. A six-person ensemble plays 25 roles, with nothing but acting chops and limited costumes to distinguish one from the other… Cymbeline is boldly performed in plain clothes and simple props, leaving the focus on the words, the performance, and Marcus Geduld’s spearheading direction, which turns the text into a passionate animal.

…from Hope’s great fight choreography to the acting and the directing, everything is grand. Fresh, gutsy, and exciting, Cymbeline is, like Our Country’s Good earlier this year, another jewel in Folding Chair’s crown.

From playshakespeare.com’s review of “Cymbeline”

“… [Paul] Hope’s performance: when he is onstage for his soliloquies in the end of Act 2 and the beginning of Act 5, he pulls every sweet nuance from the verse, leaving the audience to pick up their heartstrings. Tortured repeatedly by deception, fate, and his own willingness to believe the worst and later regret the consequences, Posthumus bares his raw insides to us, and all we can do is hold our breaths that Shakespeare chooses to make a romance, not an irreversible tragedy. Hope’s performance only grows stronger, even as he switches between Guiderius/Polydore and Posthumus.”

From Stage and Cinema’s review of “Benefactors”

David Kitzinger [is] played with the requisite invincible narcissism shading into clueless self-absorption by James Arden …Lisa Blankenship, one of the founding members of Folding Chairs Classical Theatre, handles the role [of David's wife Jane] with aplomb, capturing Jane’s Lady Bountiful airs and graces and the steeliness she brings to the efficient manager of a household… Francine Margolis, another Folding Chairs veteran, is wonderfully passive aggressive as Sheila, and Ian Gold’s Colin fairly drips with cultivated bitterness.

benefactors01Folding Chair … is to be commended for tackling this work and for approaching it with the seriousness, but also the comic verve that it deserves. … Marcus Geduld, the director, successfully mines the play’s rich veins of wit and deftly orchestrates its comic encounters and banter. On the … evening I attended audience response in the tiny 78th St Theater Lab space was muted in the first half, but by the second act … the goings on of the very fine ensemble cast were buoyed up in waves of appreciative laughter.

From Off-Off Online’s review of “Benefactors”

David [is] played with rationalism and openness and a necessary touch of the milquetoast by James Arden… Sheila [is] played with querulous apprehension by Francine Margolis, who’s a bit too physically sturdy to be completely persuasive as the mousy waif, but is otherwise excellent … Jane [is] played with a wry forthrightness by Lisa Blankenship… The virtue of such a production is that it focuses attention on the text and the playing of the piece, and the skilled cast brings forth Frayn’s psychological complexity pretty well.

From nytheatre.com’s review of “Benefactors”

benefactors02…Folding Chair does a fantastic job reviving this wonderfully subtle play. Director Marcus Geduld deserves credit for seamlessly weaving past and present together spatially, which is not an easy task with this play. The performances are subtle and thoughtful, particularly James Arden, who is able to capture both the passion and fragility of David. Lisa Blankenship, Ian Gould, and Francine Margolis should also be commended for their handling of this difficult text. One of the biggest challenges in performing Benefactors is simply the volume and subtlety of the dialogue, and I thought everyone in the cast did a fantastic job of patiently and passionately working their way through the many layers of the play. …This is a wonderful production.

From talkingbroadway.com review of “The Winter’s Tale”

Love, jealousy, and redemption are frequent subjects of many plays, but few playwrights have brought them out in their works as effectively as William Shakespeare. The Folding Chair Classical Theatre Company has developed those ideas brilliantly in their production of The Winter’s Tale now at the American Theater of Actors.

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The Folding Chair Classical Theatre Company focuses not on production concepts, but rather on the script and the acting. Under the direction of Marcus Geduld, those elements shine brightly here. Geduld’s company of ten actors performs all the show’s roles in ordinary, everyday clothing, yet it never seems out of place. The acting carries the evening.

winter02For example, Lisa Blankenship plays Hermione, the Queen of Sicilia who is accused by her husband Leontes (Walter Brandes) of having an affair with Polixenes, the King of Bohemia (Robert Cardazone). When Leontes puts her on trial for her transgressions, Blankenship is utterly heartbreaking. Karen Ogle plays Paulina, Hermione’s starch defender, and renders her speeches with a fiery passion – it’s hard to take your eyes off of her. Hermione’s daughter Perdita (Julie Thaxter-Gourlay), when grown, is wonderfully young and carefree one moment, and a grown woman the next.

Other great performances come from Steve Hamm as the Prince of Bohemia who falls in love with Perdita, Bradley Goodwill as Camillo, a Sicilian lord who can’t betray his queen, and Doug Shapiro as Autolycus, a cagey thief (and the show’s primary comic relief).

…The comfortable company of actors give the easygoing appearance of a group of friends gathered together to perform The Winter’s Tale, strengthening each relationship and plot development in the play. Whether you’re familiar with the poetic language of Shakespeare’s plays or not, the actors make sure the action is impossible to not follow. They work very well individually, but better still as a group.

Perhaps Geduld realized this in the prologues that begin each of the two halves of the evening, where each of the actors delivers different lines or words to set the stage for the story that is to come. It’s like one group of friends talking to another group of friends, informal yet vitally important. It’s just another added bonus to an already friendly and inviting evening; the sense of community pouring from the stage and into the audience makes this production of The Winter’s Tale a winning and warming experience.

From a fan of “The Winter’s Tale”

I came to see your production this past Saturday, and as I have never seen a good production of The Winter’s Tale in America (I’ve seen nine of them so far), I was somewhat hesitant about this production of what is an extremely difficult play. I am quite happy to say, however, that was the first good production of the play I have ever seen here and you should all be quite proud of your work.

Firstly, the cast was impeccable, everyone had superb energy and a strong handling of the text. Secondly, and imperative to mention, the simplicity of costume and set, without all the fancy, catchy industrial-sized production design that is typical of many other productions, put the emphasis on the language. How spectacular (and how brave) that a theatre company would have the nerve to let Shakespeare’s text work for itself. The images were created by the language therefore making a uncut version of the play enjoyable.

I must say that it kept my attention at all times and that it was a pleasure to see you all working so efficiently. There was an awareness among the cast and a genuine interaction. In dealing with what is an extremely hard piece, this is honestly a legitimate, and considerate interpretation of the text. Your work showed, and I thank you for it.

From OOBR’s Review of “Hard Times”

You never have to worry about a paucity of plot with Dickens; in fact, deciding what to leave out is as important as the method of presentation. Folding Chair Classical Theatre’s production of Hard Times (adapted by Stephen Jeffreys) treads a middle ground, stuffing its presentation with eighteen characters (plus the occasional bystander), but used only four actors. Production accoutrements were adamantly minimal — the stage was so resolutely bare that when a tea set on a tray was brought on stage, it seemed absolutely luxurious. That’s part of Dickens’s point, and this play is populated with some of his familiar types — the needy poor, the greedy rich, the characters who make a strong impression with just an appearance or two.

Tom and Blackpool could not be more different, and while Strand did it with the help of a hat and an accent, there was also a smart actor at work. Blankenship too was an acting class of her own with the ingenuous Sissy, the comic Mrs. Sparsit, the sympathetic Rachael. Ogle beautifully portrayed all of Louisa’s innocence, devastation, and gradual renewal, as befitted the heroine of the piece, and she did some other fine character bits as well.

From a fan of “Hard Times”

Just wanted to tell you again I really enjoyed the play last night. I laughed of course, but I also had tears in my eyes in a couple of spots, especially at the death of Stephen Blackpool and when Louisa went back to see her father. The change in old Gradgrind is wonderful to behold, to find that though he can’t say the word “love”, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel it. The way he warmed to Sissy suddenly was lovely too. [Ashley Strand] did, indeed, act his ass off. They all did. I meant to read the book before I came to see the play, but now I’m glad I didn’t. It was better I think to discover the story as it unfolded in front of me. Splendid!

From OOBR’s Review of “Three Sisters”

Excitement, love, and Moscow are all Olga, Masha, and Irina are asking for in the timeless classic The Three Sisters. This production was packed with delicious drama and contemporary flair enough to make the audience forget that this was the long version.

Director Marcus Geduld did an astonishing job of leading the fine actors in this well-staged adaptation by David Mamet. The play resounds with a present-day feel, while never taking away from the true story being told.

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Even with the arrival of the Imperial Army, the three sisters cannot seem to escape their dreary existence. The heroines included the brainy Ashley Butler as Olga, who is destined to become the headmistress at her school, while Lisa Blankenship played the passionate Masha, married to a man she does not love. Amanda Baker played the youngest sister, Irina, who ages tremendously in spirit through the course of the play, as the hope of moving to Moscow scuttles further and further away. The actress’s poise and carriage were captivating.

Walter Brandes, who portrayed Kulygin, the devoted husband to middle sister Masha, stands by his woman while she has an affair with an army officer. Recently seen in a Brooklyn production of The Cherry Orchard, the actor was utterly unrecognizable.

Reminiscent of a Dynasty re-run, Karen Ogle (Natalya) was pure evil in her role as the sister-in-law. Her performance aroused the urge to stand up and just slap her. Michael Bernstein, as Andrei, her husband, was charming in his role as the promising only brother whose character deadens as the years pass.

Joseph Jamrog played the doctor with regal appeal. Hugh Grant look-alike Ben Hauck (Rode) was charming and funny in his role and brought a lively wit to the play. The talented Scott D. Phillips played Solyony, who is determined to oppose ever character in the play. His nagging portrayal was often hilarious. Bradley Goodwill played Vershinin, who seduces Masha. His hidden suffocation in his unhappy marriage was strongly felt. Steve Hamm played a hunky Baron Tuzenbach, who dies before he and Irina are to be wed.

Elaine Anderson played the nanny, and had a riveting scene in the second act when she begs Olga not to send her away because she is now old and unable to work. Her performance was heartbreaking. Steven Ungar played her companion, the jolly servant.

The highlights of the production were clearly the impeccable casting and the extremely fresh direction. So fraught with complexities was the acting that it raised the question of whether these three siblings would have been just as miserable in Moscow.

Ridiculous Theater Company’s Eureka praises our “Uncle Vanya”

I really don’t think I have ever seen a better Astrov, or indeed a better UNCLE VANYA. Chekhov is so great. You … deserve an enormous amount of credit for having the time and patience to do it right. Thanks to all for the lesson in humanity.

Fan letter about “Uncle Vanya”

vanya01I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your play last night. The production had a beautiful simplicity to it. Your company really honored the text, fleshing it out unpretentiously with a series of nuanced choices. It was well directed and well acted, and the staging struck just the right note of understatement.

From a fan latter for “Night”

This donation is too small to express how much I enjoyed “Night” last Friday. The following day, when I read my copy of “Goblin Market” with the famous Houseman illustrations, my admiration or Lisa Blankenship and her director increased: a really brilliant interpretation.

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