×

Victory

Sweet is probably the wrong word for Howard Barker's "Victory," but you could certainly argue that it smells like napalm in the morning.

With:
Scrope - Steven Dykes
Bradshaw - Jan Maxwell
Ball - Robert Emmet Lunney
Charles Stuart - David Barlow
Stanley Street - Willy McKay
Clegg - Robert Zukerman

Sweet is probably the wrong word for Howard Barker’s “Victory,” but you could certainly argue that it smells like napalm in the morning. Set in the wreckage of post-Cromwell England, Barker’s 1983 play sketches a remarkably familiar world run by decadent politicians and corrupt industrialists negotiating amid piles of corpses. In PTP/NYC’s uneven production, Jan Maxwell and David Barlow are excellent as a bloodlessly practical war widow and a foppish Charles II, but the fundamental Britishness of the subject matter obscures the play’s universal themes, and thus the show may be more interesting to Barker’s fans than to casual theatergoers.

As always, Barker’s gift for creating devastation with a poetic turn of phrase is on full display here: “We knew,” Maxwell’s character, Bradshaw, says, “while we argued in his little room, the ground was going from under our feet, on late summer evenings crossing the lawn, felt the threat in the shadows under the trees, and the mockery of the placid fountain.” As the worst has come to pass, Bradshaw sets out to reclaim her life in any way she can, first attempting to recover the dismembered pieces of her revolutionary husband, which are being used by the new crop of childish courtiers to frighten each other.

Barlow does a great deal for this production as the tremendously crass King Charles Stuart. He and Maxwell play beautifully at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum and create a strange kind of chemistry, though their characters are rarely in the same room together. She’s eminently controlled and pragmatic; he’s driven entirely by whim, and Barlow manages to make Charles’ worst excesses, if not fun to watch, at least fascinating.

The third storyline in the play, somewhat at odds with Bradshaw’s journey (a nod to “Antigone”) and the debauchery of the court (with its winks at the bawdy comedy of the period) follows the quiet, polite, Machievellian consortium of businessmen who are preparing to take over the running of the country — into the present day, Barker seems to assert. There’s no corresponding touchstone from theater history for these sequences, but the sight of Charles’ crass mistress, Nell Gwynn (a wonderful Ele Woods), taunting the 17th-century equivalent of Lloyd Blankfein is a wonder to behold.

It would be nice to say that between Maxwell and Barlow (along with impressive turns throughout the large cast, notably Robert Emmet Lunney as Ball, a lust-crazed cavalier), the production manages to elucidate a play steeped in British politics for American audiences. But it doesn’t, at least not entirely.

Although helmer Richard Romagnoli is very good at staging individual encounters, his best stab at tying the whole intriguing mess of a script together is to incorporate some frankly silly dancing in between scenes and to play punk music ranging from Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” to the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” at every opportunity. It doesn’t work.

While it’s less than the sum of its parts, there’s a great deal to recommend “Victory,” especially if you’re familiar with Barker. (PTP/NYC revives him and occasionally premieres him on American soil with gratifying regularity.) But staging this writer is occasionally as difficult as reading one of his lengthy manifesti, and this isn’t quite the production it could have been.

Victory

Atlantic Stage 2; 81 seats; $25 top

Production: A Potomac Theater Project presentation of a play in two acts by Howard Barker. Directed by Richard Romagnoli.

Creative: Set, Hallie Zieselman; costumes, Carlie Crawford and Jule Emerson; lighting, Mark Evancho; projections, Zieselman; sound, Allison Rimmer; production stage manager, Melissa A. Nathan. Opened, reviewed July 15, 2011. Running time: 2 HOURS, 45 MIN.

Cast: Scrope - Steven Dykes
Bradshaw - Jan Maxwell
Ball - Robert Emmet Lunney
Charles Stuart - David Barlow
Stanley Street - Willy McKay
Clegg - Robert ZukermanWith: Michael Kessler, Mat Nakitare, Alex Cranmer, Michaela Lieberman, Edelen McWilliams, Ele Woods.

More Legit

  • Because of Winn Dixie review

    Regional Theater Review: 'Because of Winn Dixie,' the Musical

    Watching the musical “Because of Winn Dixie” at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Conn., it’s hard not to think of another show that premiered in the same regional theater 43 years ago. It, too, featured a scruffy stray dog, a lonely-but-enterprising young girl and a closed-off daddy who finally opens up. But “Winn Dixie,” based [...]

  • MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOWby

    Off Broadway Review: 'Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow'

    There’s something about Anton Chekhov’s whiny sisters that invites comic sendups of “Three Sisters” like the one Halley Feiffer wrote on commission for the Williamstown Theater Festival. Transferred to MCC Theater’s new Off Broadway space and playing in the round in a black box with limited seating capacity, the crafty show feels intimate and familiar. [...]

  • the way she spoke review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Way She Spoke' With Kate del Castillo

    Since the 1990s, scores of women in Juarez, Mexico have been mutilated, raped, and murdered at such a rate that some have called it an epidemic of femicide—killing women and girls solely because they are women. Isaac Gomez’s play “the way she spoke,” produced Off Broadway by Audible and starring Kate del Castillo, confronts the [...]

  • HBO's 'SUCCESSION

    Brian Cox Playing LBJ in Broadway Run of 'The Great Society'

    Brian Cox will play President Lyndon Johnson in the Broadway run of “The Great Society,” playwright Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to “All the Way.” The role of Johnson, a crude, but visionary politician who used the office of the presidency to pass landmark civil rights legislation and social programs, was originally played by Bryan Cranston in [...]

  • Paul McCartney Has Penned Score for

    Paul McCartney Has Been Secretly Writing an 'It's a Wonderful Life' Musical

    The pop superstar who once released a movie and album called “Give My Regards to Broad Street” really does have designs on Broadway, after all. It was revealed Wednesday that Paul McCartney has already written a song score for a stage musical adaptation of the 1946 Frank Capra film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The [...]

  • The Night of the Iguana review

    West End Review: 'The Night of the Iguana' With Clive Owen

    If Tennessee Williams is the poet laureate of lost souls, none of his characters as are off-grid as the restless travelers trying to make it through his little-seen 1961 play, “The Night of the Iguana.” Holed up in a remote Mexican homestay, its ragtag itinerants live hand-to-mouth, day by day, as they seek refuge from [...]

  • Moulin Rouge Broadway

    Listen: The Special Sauce in Broadway's 'Moulin Rouge!'

    There are songs in the new Broadway version of “Moulin Rouge!” that weren’t in Baz Luhrmann’s hit movie — but you probably know them anyway. They’re popular tunes by superstars like Beyoncé, Adele and Rihanna, released after the 2001 movie came out, and they’ll probably unleash a flood of memories and associations in every audience [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content