Here's the newest review from our group of intrepid subscribing-and-reviewing families known as the SCT Review Crew. Today's reviewers are Connie D., Kathi W. and Kelsey W.
Our Thoughts On A Tale of Two Cities
We loved A Tale of Two Cities. The playwright did a great job of remaining true to the book. We liked the way the playwright and director brought out Dickens’ compassion for the underdog, his understanding for the complications of class roles, and his focus on the character of individuals.
Right from the beginning of the play, we were hooked. Having several characters narrate the “It was the best of times…” phrases and the ominous sound in the background was powerful.
We liked the set, which worked in all locations. The coach carrying the Marquis (David Quicksall) was beautifully done (although for those of us near the front, a blanket over his lap would have helped the distraction of seeing all of his legs, etc.). Our other minor frustration was the fence in front of the balcony. In some scenes, it was difficult to see everyone completely. I appreciated how some of the actors leaned down so their faces were visible under the bar.
We had differing opinions on the accents (or lack thereof). The youngest or us said during intermissions that she would have liked French and English accents so she could keep track of who was French and who was English. We older folk liked the emphasis on acting and clarity versus messing with accents. In our experience, actors trying to maintain perfect accents throughout a play tend to have less energy and force left for their acting.
The costumes were wonderful, especially those of the main characters and the upper and middle class. The Defarges’ (Allen Galli and Amy Thone) clothing was great, but one of us thought the mob scene extras’ costumes seemed a little too theatrically patchy. We know there’s a limit to budget and time, though, and the choice to spend more on the main characters was absolutely right.
The mob scenes would have been more dramatic with more people, and again we understand there are financial limitations… but maybe you could have had some volunteers or stagehands or prop people come out for those scenes to make it feel more like a real, crowded, out-of-control, city mob.
The acting was excellent, especially Rafael Untalan as Sydney Carton. He was very believable in a role that could be overplayed. He felt very true to the person he was at each point in the story.
We really loved the directing by Rita Giomi. There were great transitions between scenes and ideas, great unity of narration, great use of the stage, sound and actors. There were a number of extremely poignant moments, such as the finale, which were done perfectly.
The final impact was superb. The relationship of Carton and the seamstress, pointing out his true compassion despite himself, was touching. We momentarily had a tough time transitioning with the same actress being the pitiful seamstress right after she’d been the cruel Mme. Defarge. Luckily, Amy Thone is such a great actress that we were able to forget the Mme. Defarge in her within a few seconds.
The long climb around and up to the guillotine, the darkening red sky, and the rhythm of the heads/guillotine falling coming closer together as the seamstress and Carton waited their turn made for great tension. Having the stage completely and suddenly darken when the guillotine finally fell on Carton was perfect. It’s not often that it takes the audience such a long time to catch their breaths and gather their wits enough to applaud. We noticed that many people were tearing up at the end, including Untalan. We (and he) were so involved in Carton’s last minutes that we felt it was brave for the actor to come back on stage after that experience.
Of course, we felt that this play was very relevant to today. (Did you choose this before Wall Street toppled and even more people lost their jobs and homes?) The point of caring for others and living for others really came across.
Thanks again for a wonderful show.
A Tale of Two Cities runs through April 12, 2009 in SCT's Charlotte Martin Theatre.