Who knew that a play with a corny farce beginning would be one of the best ones I've seen all year. Rough Crossing, by Tom Stoppard, takes place in the 1930's and is filled with love, adultery, singing, dancing, and a whole lot of drama. The play, directed by Mark Rucker, is showing at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven until December 20th. I walked into the theatre a little skeptical; I was still unhappy about my last Yale Rep experience and resented the theatre for putting on such an awful production. However, this play is definitely worth seeing.
Rough Crossing is a farce about a brand new musical comedy which is about to debut on Broadway, unfortunately it doesn't have an ending yet. Actually, the beginning needs work and the middle is a mess. Celebrated playwrights Turai (Reg Rogers) and Gal (Greg Stuhr) are on board a trans-Atlantic ocean liner and are working out the details of the musical on their way to New York City, and only have four days to do it. To complicate matters, the composer—who has been struck by an awful stuttering problem and is hopelessly in love with the temperamental leading lady, Natasha (Susannah Schulman) who has been caught in a compromising position with the leading man, Ivor (John G. Preston)—ripped his music score into a million pieces, and threatened to jump ship.
As with nearly every other performance I have seen at the Yale Rep, the overall acting was top notch. They were all convincing in their respective roles and most importantly, they were so funny. The production also had six women who were in the chorus. They sang and tapped in all the scenes where the actors were practicing their production. The dancing was very elementary, but it was executed well and just right for the production. Anything more intense or elaborate would not have fit into this play or production and the choreographer, Michele Lynch, knew this.
The costumes were great; Luke Brown, the costume designer, did an amazing job dressing these actors! The main characters, Turai, Adam and Gal all were wearing suits in the first two scenes, while later on they were dressed casually. Their suits were navy and brown, some pin striped and some solid and all in the typical 1930 style and cut. Natasha wore a beautiful bright dress in the first scene, a stylish Navy and white suit in the second and in the third, purple pants and a purple sleeveless blouse with beautiful ruffles streaming down the front of the blouse. She looked very stylish, as a rising Broadway star would be. Ivor was also dressed in navy pin striped suit and looked sharp. The waiter, Dvonichek, played by Patrick Kerr, wore a navy suit with buttons down the front and a small blue pill box hat in the first two scenes and a one piece cream and blue swim suit with some sort of hat in the third suit. In the closing scene the actors were in costume and the play, within the play, was finished. The dancers wore bright elaborate costumes, Natasha wore a Bright Purple number, Gal and Turai wore cream colored suits and Ivor wore a cream and navy colored suit. Dvonichek wore a kelly green suit with a crazy hat; he look ridiculous. It was great.
The actors related well with one another and while not relatable to a general audience, they were incredibly amusing with their 1930's persona's. There was unnecessary no tension. The actors were able to have the audience feel what they felt and made us laugh with their timing. And as with any farce, timing is important!
I think one of my favorite parts of the play was the set. They had a few settings: the balcony of Turai and Natasha (they were upstairs one another), the inside of Turai's cabin (which was so intricate and amazingly beautiful) - these two were actually one piece that was turned around for the scene, a ballroom and the last scene was on the top deck of a boat which was actually the set for the play. It was because of the expertise of scenic designer Timothy R. Mackabee that the set was so beautiful and great to watch.
As with every other play I’ve seen at the Yale Rep, outside Passion Play, the quality of the play – both the acting and the production teams’ work, was high. The production concept was interesting and did not distract from the performance which, unfortunately, is easy to do. The audience was let in stitches and I felt as though Yale Rep made up for the awful Passion Play.