INES DE CASTRO by John Clifford, directed by Diana Kolpak, with Patrick Conner, Ron Kennell, Elyssa Livergant, Cheryl McNamara, Robert Tsonos and Dinah Watts. Presented by Whetstone at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Runs to June 30, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $12-$18, Sunday pwyc. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNN
history has recorded few stran- ger stories of amour than that of Ines De Castro, the lover of 14th-century Portuguese prince Pedro. Murdered by his father's henchman, she was disinterred five years later by Pedro and crowned his queen.Director Diana Kolpak's vibrant production of John Clifford's play captures almost all the colours of this passionate tale. The story is told from the perspective both of the central characters and a chorus of commoners who offer their own view of Ines's life and death.
There's a strong Romeo and Juliet undercurrent, as well as a dollop of Jacobean tragedy. A pair of lovers seek a paradisal world to escape their rigid, disapproving social structure. Ironically, the commoners' attitudes are the most striking element of the script, since the royals and those around them sometimes speak in platitudes.
Kolpak's use of stylized movement (created with coach Viv Moore) enhances the text, which gets a thoughtful reading from the solid cast in Karla Faulconbridge's crumbling courtyard of a set.
Everyone but Ines (Elyssa Livergant) doubles as chorus: the king (a restrained Patrick Conner), his conniving servant Pacheco (Robert Tsonos in a properly sneering, Machiavellian turn), Pedro (an ardent Ron Kennell), Pedro's spurned wife, Blanca (Cheryl McNamara), and Dinah Watts, splendid as a both a practical nurse and a charming old woman who seduces Ines in an unexpected way.
Even though the show's not perfect -- the writing is occasionally forced, and, despite their heartfelt characterizations, I'd like more sensual chemistry between Livergant and Kennell -- Ines De Castro throbs with a drama that's true to its hot-blooded roots.theatre reviews