'Queen' belabors its point

October 24, 1991|By Lou Cedrone | Lou Cedrone,Evening Sun Staff

ONE OF THE most interesting things about the Center Stage production of Ugo Betti's ''The Queen and the Rebels'' is the set.

Staged in the Head Theater of the Center Stage complex, the production makes use of the entire east end of the room, the players walking or running to get to their assigned locations and deliver their lines.

To the rear, sandbags line the wall below boarded windows.

One person, who attended the last preview performance, said it was disconcerting, that watching the play in this much playing area was a little like watching a tennis match, but that is about all the excitement this production has.

It is very well acted. It has also been extremely well directed, but good acting and good direction do not quite conceal the fact that Betti's play, written with surprising passion for a man of 57 (he died in 1953 at the age of 61), is rather redundant.

It does begin to grip at the beginning of the second act, but before long, the second act, like the first, repeats the same theme, one that is apparent to those who are aware of what is going on in the rest of the world or even our own back yard.

The author did play with a little mystery. The woman, accused of being the queen who had plunged this particular country into chaos (there are similarities to the killing of the Russian royal family during World War I), continues to insist that she is little more than a prostitute.

She is no more a queen than she is a barmaid, but because the revolutionaries need a scapegoat, someone they can execute, they accuse her of being the queen and ''try'' her.

Is she the real queen, or is she not? The script plays with this theme a bit but not enough, and it should have. A touch of mystery might have made this a far more engrossing play. Instead, we have a rebel leader, a commissar who goes on and on about wanting the names the queen has, names of her supporters, people the rebels would like to eliminate, just as they will the queen.

The commissar gets to be a bore about it, but then, rebels are boring, in real life and in the theater. All think they have the answers, and all, when they win, become as tyrannical as those they replace.

This is something Betti should have considered more than he does, and that's a pity. A man who breathed rebellion as a young person, he was more interested in citing the sins of those in power, not knowing, or refusing to admit, that power corrupts those who have it.

Caitlin Clarke plays Argia, the prostitute who is willing to go to her death if they will just stop asking her about those names. Clarke is not so much feisty as street-tired, but she does make the character work. It is she who gives the play the life it has.

Jan Triska is the man who poses as The Traveler but is really a rebel leader. Triska seems very right in the role, until he begins to strike poses.

Gregory Wallace is Raim, another rebel who would sell his soul to ally himself with the right people, and Dominick Chianese is Biante, the rebel general who has been shot but not fatally.

Visually, Chianese is well cast. Dramatically, however, he is strongest when he isn't yelling, but then rebellion has a way of bringing out the yell in people.

''The Queen and the Rebels'' opened last evening at the Head Theater of Center Stage. It will remain there through Dec. 1.

''The Queen and the Rebels''

** Rebels in an unnamed country accuse a prostitute of being the queen who has brought their country to ruin.

CAST: Thomas Ikeda, Robertson Dean, Jan Triska, Gregory Wallace, Elizabeth Van Dyke, Caitlin Clarke, Dominick Chianese, Gordon Joseph Weiss.

DIRECTOR: Irene Lewis

L RUNNING TIME: Two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission

! TICKETS: 332-0033

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