Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 17, 2022

Review: Shakespeare & Company, The Approach

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through May 29, 2022
by Shera Cohen

Photo by Daniel Rader
Three exemplary actresses star in "The Approach," the opening play at Shakespeare & Company. Those audience members who may think that the troupe only performs works of the Bard, realize that about half of the season includes contemporary and/or plays written by everyone else. Mark Rowe's piece falls into the latter category. Unfortunately, the material is not worthy of the directors' energy and actors' acumen.

As an exercise in the portrayal of character study, the play deserves an A+. However, while sometimes "less is more," in this case "less is still less". Tina Packer (S&Co's founder) and Mark Farrell co-direct a series of conversations between female duos. Never, at any point, are all on the stage at the same time, or except for hugs at the end of each scene do they even touch. The actors sit and talk. It is obvious that every word in this very talky play is carefully chosen, just as the directors have purposely chosen each glance and silence.

Two of the women are sisters with a go-between friend as a confidant of each. Michelle Joyner and Shakes regular Elizabeth Aspenlieder portray the estranged siblings, with Nicole Ansari as their mutual friend Cora. The audience soon realizes that the friendship has spanned decades, since grade school. It would be unfair and a misnomer to state that any one actor outshines the others, both in language delivery or silences. 

The fourth wall, the audience, essentially eavesdrops on the trio whose conversations go from mundane and boring to those with deeper meaning, inuendo, and falsehoods; i.e. romances, connections with others. There is an obvious and purposeful lack of connection between each other. Noticeably, the woman sitting in the left chair constantly asks "Why?" She genuinely wants to know the answers, but accepts short, meaningless quips from the other woman.

Why the title, "The Approach," is completely unclear; the play could have easily been titled just about anything else. Not that the actors required wide strokes of active movement on the stage, but focus on dialogue alone can be tedious. The setting is Dublin, Ireland. Yet, again, except at the masterful interpretation of the accents, the location could have been anywhere. 

A course in analyzing depiction of character study, "The Approach" is ideal.