Heroes & Traitors

Steve Pickering as Wallenstein, Shakespeare Theater, Scott Suchman photo 

While they're still playing, just wanted to put in a quick plug for Wallenstein & Coriolanus, in rotating rep at the Shakespeare Theater through the end of the month. The theater thinks the two plays are related because each features a great military hero who, betrayed by his country, then turns on it. They're calling it the traitor-hero series. Who's a hero: you be the judge?

They're just well done. Wallenstein is a Schiller play I knew nothing about prior to seeing this production, and I gather it's been rather loosely translated, though very skillfully: the language is elegant and sharp. Directed by Michael Kahn (whom I always maintain is the nation's best director for the stage -- he really knows how to bring the best out of actors), this a solid piece of work all around, very fresh.

Patrick Page as Coriolanus, Scott Suchman Photo
I'm not quite as sold on the partner production, Coriolanus, mostly because the actor who plays Coriolanus' foil, Aufidius, is somewhat weak and that mars things. But Patrick Page is a fabulous Coriolanus -- this is the same fellow who maybe ten years ago now portrayed a Iago so subtly menacing he made the audience hiss: just a tremendous actor.

He has the guts to play Coriolanus as something of an SOB, which I think is called for in the text. The last couple of productions of the play I've seen, Coriolanus seemed entirely noble and his refusal to show his wounds in public humble, such that the people seemed genuinely to have wronged him and he was almost a martyr.  This production doesn't make that mistake --there's a far more interesting question posed about what Coriolanus deserves.

There are also some humorous moments deftly handled here. Diane D'Aquila makes a magnificent Volumnia, and she's wonderful in a scene where she pretends to let her grandson vanquish her as an enemy. And the people are shown to be what we might now call "low information voters" as a little relief from the tension of the main action. Quite well done. 

Update: Thanks to Ken for his kind comment below, and also for this link to Terry Teachout's apt review. He chooses not to mention the one weak spot, but he brings out more of the play's importance and give Patrick Page his full due.