Elizabeth Rex

November 29, 2011

January 22, 2012

in CST's Courtyard Theater

by Timothy Findley
directed by Barbara Gaines

Critical Acclaim

“Exceedingly powerful acting in Gaines' deftly forged production...the fine Canadian actress Diane D'Aquila is a formidable Queen Elizabeth, at once guttural, riven and wholly cliche-free. It's a strikingly raw and complex performance, ably matched by Sutcliffe, a fellow Canadian star, whose work is similarly complex: warm-blooded, persistent and intensely affecting.”

“Highly Recommended! In Elizabeth Rex, the enthralling drama now in director Barbara Gaines' vividly staged Chicago Shakespeare Theater production, the late Canadian playwright Timothy Findley suggests that those in positions of power have always known the necessity of role-playing in the wielding of power and control. The play begins as Elizabeth (Diane D'Aquila in a gripping performance that is alternately volatile, playful, fierce and brave), sits alone in her box, watching Ned Lowenscroft (Steven Sutcliffe, masterful and mercurial as the male actor who excels in playing Shakespeare's major female characters).”

“[Findley’s] most important success lies in his ability to write juicy roles, large and small. An actor himself early on, Findley pretty much festoons Elizabeth Rex with potentially vivid turns. And Barbara Gaines's cast takes marvelous advantage of them all. At the center of it all are D'Aquila's Elizabeth and Steven Sutcliffe's Lowenscroft. The former is a somewhat baffled bull in an emotional china shop, the latter, well, a consummate actor. It works out beautifully.”

“Directed with precision by CST Artistic Director Barbara Gaines, the most acclaimed performances are courtesy of Stratford Shakespeare Festival veteran actress Diane D'Aquila featured as Queen Elizabeth, the role she originated in the award-winning play's premiere. Her onstage equal in every way is Steven Sutcliffe, performing the role of the Queen's sparring partner Ned Lowenscroft.”

“Audiences at the Tony Award-winning Chicago Shakespeare Theater expect lavish production values and forceful, honest performances, all of which once again carry the day in Elizabeth Rex...Daniel Ostling's beamed barn set is massive, yet all but smells of horses and hay in its rich detailing, and Mariann S. Verheyen's costumes are prize-worthy, from Elizabeth's spectacular gown to the none-too-clean hose-and-doublets of the troupers.”

“D'Aquila renders the queen in all her complexities, her vanity and her strength of character, her iron will and her despair at the death of the man she loves. The production, under Barbara Gaines's resourceful directing, is full of stirring moments leavened by ribald comedy.”

“Findley provides meaty roles, and Barbara Gaines's cast rips into them with relish. Steven Sutcliffe's bitter, self-tragedizing Ned makes a fine match for Diane D'Aquila's Elizabeth, alternately imperious and earthy.”

“Unforgettable...While it is not a typical holiday play, it is a play for the holidays, in that it offers just the right mixture of intelligence, history, imagination and magic. Diane D'Aquila is amazing as the queen, torn between love and duty, country and man, life and death, her feminine and masculine sides. Bravo!”

     'Rex' rocks...Chicago Shakespeare Theater's daring production combines flawless technical elements and brilliant performances to create an unforgettable evening for all. Known for her imaginative renditions of the Bard, Barbara Gaines adds another dazzling production to her sterling resume. With a sure hand, Gaines guides the audience into the mind and heart of an unforgettable monarch and is backed by a spectacular array of Chicago's finest theatrical artists.”

      An unforgettable theatrical experience...Diane D'Aquila is simply riveting as Queen Elizabeth, and her performance alone is reason enough to attend the play (although certainly not the only reason). Not to be outdone, Steven Sutcliffe gives a passionate and sympathetic performance as the queen's sparring partner, Ned Lowenscroft.”

      Chicago Shakespeare Theater has created a night to remember. Indeed, Findley's searing, witty drama unfolds along Shakespearean lines as a brilliant, flinty pas de deux for queen and fool. The worthy jousters are Diane D'Aquila, who created the role of Elizabeth in the play's world premiere at the Stratford (Ontario) Shakespeare Festival in 2000, and Steven Sutcliffe, who transmogrifies the wasting Lowenscroft into a specter whom the queen cannot outflank and whose jibes she must absorb for the truths they bear.”

      Superb 'Elizabeth Rex' explores the transformative power of theatre... What makes Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production in particular a must-see are the performances. There's something so completely satisfying about watching an actor in a role tailor fit for them. Canadian actress D'Aquila embodies Queen Elizabeth—a role she originated when the play premiered in 2000 at the Stratford Festival in Canada—with such command and ferocity, it's simply breathtaking.”

“Recommended...As the two leads, Steven Sutcliffe (Ned) and Diane D'Aquila (who originated the role of Elizabeth at Stratford) find a wonderful friction in their sparring…D'Aquila is particularly powerful as the queen, giving real gravity to lines like this one, which might be the play's thesis—"What are you most, in there, where you live?"”

“It's a particular thrill to watch these killer lines be delivered by Diane D'Aquila, who originated the role in the play's award-winning debut at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario. Under the direction of Chicago Shakespeare Theater Artistic Director and Founder Barbara Gaines, D'Aquila's is one of several stellar performances.”


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