Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Lakewood Players Superb in "Becket"

Cleveland Press February 4, 1965

A reviewer approaches a little theater production with a certain amount of wariness. He bemoans the fact that what he most often sees is a continuous stream of trivial comedies.

But in truth he dreads even more the ambitious production of a major, serious opus, for in this direction most often lies disaster.

All of this is by way of preface to an opinion that Lakewood Little Theater has produced not a disaster but a thoroughly first-rate production of a very demanding work.

JEAN ANOUILH'S superior play has brought out the best in just about everybody. This is not a case of majestic language masking indifferent performances. Even Shakespeare, poorly done, is poor entertainment.

Director Karl Mackey has chosen to stage the work with much color and pageantry which is surprising.

Though there is pageantry inherent in the script, it is the sort of play that could be done on an almost bare stage and has been done this way effectively.

IT IS SURPRISING since the latter approach would not have stretched the resources of a little theater group. But I rather enjoyed the touch of opulence.

Mackey also seems to have chosen to stage the script in its entirety, which is a flaw. Anouilh's play can be easily abbreviated. The scene involving the Pope and his adviser is a touch of low comedy that offers a jarring note to the proceedings. The recent Play House production trimmed this and improved the play.

OTHER PRODUCTIONS have left it in but I doubt that any have done it quite so broadly or with so heavy a hand as the Lakewood presentation.

The play is well cast, particularly in its leads. Paul Orgill is a haughty, imperious King Henry II, shifting easily from humor to anger. Griff Davies is excellent as Becket, self-assured yet registering moments of doubt.

Earl Keyes comes across as a minor villain in the role of the Bishop of London. Jack Leif's French king was overly foppish and Edna Holleran as Gwendolen slipped into a sing-song recital of her lines occasionally.

The total effect of the production is quite pleasing.