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Review: 'Tomorrow' takes on Shakespeare through actors' eyes

March 21, 2013|By Margaret Gray
  • Jamie Booth (Geoffrey Forward) and Laura Keating (Jenn Robbins) confront private demons and learn dark secrets about each other as they rehearse scenes from "Macbeth" in Donald Freed's new play, "Tomorrow."
Jamie Booth (Geoffrey Forward) and Laura Keating (Jenn Robbins) confront… (John Flynn )

If the title of Donald Freed’s new play, now at the Skylight Theatre, doesn’t prompt you to quote Macbeth (“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…”), you are probably not its intended demographic. The heart of “Tomorrow” is three actors discussing and rehearsing scenes from the Shakespeare tragedy.

And, yes, it sounds dry and cerebral, like something only a dramaturge would be into. As I actually have a degree in dramaturgy, you might roll your eyes when I say I was on the edge of my seat as I watched the characters hunt Lady Macbeth’s psychology through the text, history and their own pasts. But honestly, this sequence crackles with suspense, sexual tension and passion for the stage.

It clearly reflects the theatrical excitement of the production team, a collaboration by Skylight Theatre Company, Rogue Machine and England’s York Theatre Royal — which also lent director Damian Cruden.

The only trouble is getting to the good part. The first act creeps in a petty pace, glacially establishing that the actress Laura Keating (Jenn Robbins) is afraid to play Lady Macbeth, so she has come to beg a famous reclusive actress, the 100-year-old Abigail Booth (Salome Jens, whose stage presence is breathtaking), to coach her.

Booth, a (fictional) descendant of the (real) theatrical family to which John Wilkes belonged, lives alone with her memories and her dour 50-ish great-nephew, Jamie (Geoffrey Forward), himself a former actor who mysteriously fled the stage during — coincidentally? — a performance of “Macbeth.”

Surrounded by black-and-white photographs, listening aghast to radio broadcasts of the 2000 presidential election, the two are a little bit  “Sunset Blvd.” with some “Grey Gardens” thrown in. Rogue Machine’s Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, who does faded splendor beautifully, designed the West Hollywood studio where these fascinating, high-strung oddballs undertake their study.

Although everything that precedes and follows the rehearsal scenes feels strained and incompletely developed in comparison, all three performances are nonetheless strongly felt, and, especially in those scenes, may even remind you of why you liked plays in the first place.

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“Tomorrow.” Skylight Theatre, 1816 ½ N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. $17.50-$34. Ends April 21. (702) 582-8587 or www.ktcla.com.

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