Elevate Difference

Reviews of Phoenix Theatre Ensemble


Tom Stoppard’s 1988 espionage thriller, Hapgood, addresses the insanity of the Cold War by zooming in on a band of British spies. Alongside the CIA, the group engages in crosses and double-crosses, the end result being little more than a game of chicken. Led by Mrs. Elizabeth Hapgood, AKA Betty, AKA Mother--played by actor Elise Stone with a perfect mix of sass and sadness—the reconnaissance team’s efforts are a showcase for three distinct plot lines: The juggling of employment and child rearing responsibilities for single mothers; the temptation of forbidden love; and the competitive race for scientific knowledge between the “free world” and the Communist bloc. While the first two themes are presented with straightforward punch, the latter is muddled, perhaps emblematic of the Cold War itself. As Hapgood says near the denouement of the play, “It’s them or us. We’re keeping each other in business. We should send each other Christmas cards.”

A Man’s A Man

If playwright Bertolt Brecht were alive today, he’d likely blanch at the contemporary tendency to seek common ground with those whose ideologies are diametrically opposed to one’s own. His dozens of plays speak truth to power in daring, direct language and, while farce and sarcasm are employed, his repeated denunciations of colonialism, war, and militarism are boldly presented. A Man’s a Man (sometimes called Man Equals Man) was first staged in Dusseldorf and Darmstadt, Germany in 1926. Eighty-four years later, The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble’s beautifully-presented staged reading of the play is so relevant that the audience quickly forgets the age of the work.

I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me By a Young Lady From Rwanda (4/13/2008)

I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me By a Young Lady From Rwanda is an amazing two-person play set in London, England in the modern day. It chronicles one Rwandan refugee’s struggle to write about what happened to her in 1994, and the Englishman who helps her. While living in England, Juliette (Susan Hayward) meets an aging poet, Simon (Joseph J. Menino), who works at the refugee center part-time. She comes to him for help in getting her book about the Rwandan genocide published.