American Players Theatre: Tom Stoppard’s Rough Crossing! A lesson in the importance of precision in language!!

Although a devoted fan of Oscar Wilde and Larry Shue, I have never quite gotten on board with Tom Stoppard’s work. But with APT’s boisterous and rousing Hill Theatre presentation of Rough Crossing, adapted by Mr. Stoppard from a play by Ferenc Molnar, I have a new appreciation for Mr. Stoppard! And every piece to this play was pitch perfect.

I seldom pay much attention to wardrobe, but the characters here are dressed exquisitely for their roles and the time period. The costumes set the perfect mood and totally pulled me out of the now and into the era of the play. Bravo to Rachel Anne Healy!

And before I go on further, Scott Adam Davis’ set put us asea on a cruise without distraction despite having to work with the historic rustic stage of the Hill Theatre as his base!

Now Stoppard has a great deal of fun opening this play with four of the principal characters on the balcony of playwright Sandor Turai (James Ridge). He is accompanied by his partner, Alex Gal (Jamal James), and their new composing partner Adam Adam (Josh Krause), and as the occasion calls for their foil and narrator and salvation, the steward, Dvornichek (David Daniel). This is probably the most difficult part to play because it requires impeccable timing and stage positioning on the part of all of the actors. If there’s just a bit of a hesitancy, a good bit of the humor can be lost…as well as an understanding of the relationship of the characters and particularly how Dvornichek works the magic that is the play! And hesitancy itself is in fact a character here, so it requires all the more care. The fours actors execute right on the money and director William Brown has envisioned a staging that plays just just right!

Josh Krause, James Ridge and Jamal James, Rough Crossing, 2021. Photo by Liz Lauren. Courtesy of the American Players Theatre.

The four actors here seem to have been born into these roles or are successfully channeling actors from the period without effort. David Daniel as Dvornichek (aka Murphy, you’ll have to see the play to understand) moves effortlessly from steward to life saver to announcer to seer! A marvelous bit of acting and aplomb for what I consider the pivotal role in the play.

Josh Krause, James Ridge and Jamal James, Rough Crossing, 2021. Photo by Liz Lauren. Courtesy of American Players Theatre.

Now there is a little sub-plot here and even if you have no experience with Rough Crossing, this probably won’t be a spoiler. But like many a classical play there is a play within a play or a play implied within the play and any number of alternate takes, starts, middles, or endings to all of them…a multi-tiered and multi-faceted piece. This game is laid in the opening lines and although it seems smooth enough, the only one in control is Murphy and maybe some of you!

So now the stage is set, we know that misdirection, misunderstanding, and precision in language will be the engine that drives the humor from here on in…so time to introduce drama, subterfuge, angst, and a love interest! So we add a balcony scene from above featuring the remaining lead actors from our play, but the intended lead actors for the storied play being developed by Mr. Turai, Gal, and Adam! A former Juliet, Natasha Navratilova (Kelsey Brennan), has the cabin just above Mr. Turai’s. She is the current love interest of Mr. Adam but the former lover of smarmy actor Ivor Fish (Marcus Truschinski) who is now putting the moves on Miss Navratilova within plain hearing of our trio of playwrights, including Mr. Adam. So off we go in the main farce that is Rough Crossing!

Marcus Truschinski and Kelsey Brennan, Rough Crossing, 2021. Photo by Liz Lauren. Courtesy of American Players Theatre.

So I found myself immersed in Rough Crossing…certainly putting aside our current era and issues…and wonder what the future holds for the multi-talented Dvornichek (and David Daniel as well)!!

And when it’s over you will need something to relax your funny bone, maybe a cognac?

Rough Crossing continues through August 7, 2021 at the APT’s Hill Theatre or can be streamed and watched at home through that date. Click here for ticket and event information!

Marcus Truschinski, Jamal James, David Daniel, Kelsey Brennan, Josh Krause and James Ridge, Rough Crossing, 2021. Photo by Liz Lauren. Courtesy of American Players Theatre.

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