A Man for All Seasons
Time Out says
Theater review by Raven Snook
It's easy to see why Fellowship for Performing Arts, a company devoted to presenting theater from a Christian worldview, would be drawn to A Man for All Seasons. Robert Bolt's 1961 chestnut is about a consummate man of religious conscience: Sir Thomas More, a 16th-century lawyer, philosopher, statesman and humanist who paid the ultimate price for standing up for his principles. But there are reasons Bolt’s drama is rarely performed nowadays. Long on talk and short on action, the play is a museum piece, and in this production the museum in question appears to be Madame Tussauds.
Director Christa Scott-Reed's approach is painfully traditional. The uneven cast sports faux British accents—even the turn-off-your-cell-phones announcement has one!—and Renaissance-faire costumes. In Act I, we learn that More (a too-subdued Michael Countryman) values his morality above all else, including friends, family, financial stability and even his beloved King Henry VIII (a roisterous Trent Dawson). In order to annul his marriage, Henry must break with the Roman Catholic Church, but More refuses to support him—though he won't speak out against him, either. That leaves him prey to opportunists and manipulators, notably the king's chief minister, Cromwell (Todd Cerveris, a convincing sadist).
Since More's demise is a foregone conclusion, there's little dramatic tension, and the play’s arguments are more compelling intellectually than emotionally. Yet the second act does include a number of superlative speeches. When the imprisoned More tries to explain to his distraught wife (an underused Carolyn McCormick) and daughter (a sympathetic Kim Wong) why he can't just do as the King says, his words have the power to stir the soul. No wonder the man became a saint.
Theatre Row (Off Broadway). By Robert Bolt. Directed by Christa Scott-Reed. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.