Review by SHARI BARRETTJune 13, 2014
My overall impression
Written and directed by Sean Dillon and Curtin Krick, DRAMATIS PERSONAE centers on an actor (Kristopher Lee Bicknell) who shares some wonderful gems that he has unearthed from the dim recesses of theatre history. The concept is looking at plays throughout history and the actors who became known for playing important roles in the shows, so much so that the role and actor have become so closely associated they have rarely (or in some cases, never) been performed by others until now. The show is presented by Vespertine Productions.
Of course, the plays presented and actors discussed are all fiction, but that hardly matters given the tour-de-force performance of Kristopher Lee Bicknell as the actor who presents many marvelously drawn out characters portrayals. Bicknell starts out as a modern actor dressed in stage blacks, going through his warm-up exercises to great classical music as the audience is seated. The actor brings both a genuine respect and a passionate portrayal to a series of selected pieces, both deeply dramatic and side-splittingly funny. The result is a revelation for audiences, a bravura performance of surprising wit, subtlety, passion, and heartbreaking vulnerability by Bicknell.
As the actor moves through time, we are treated to watching a silver-faced masked old man with incredible facial expressions from Greek tragedy, bespeckled Friar James from England in 1611 in a hooded cape who delivers his lines with an outlandish rogue (also played by Bicknell) on a television screen at the back of the stage, a little-known Commedia dell’Arte servant from the Italian Renaissance (presented totally in mime and hysterically funny as he removes his own costume as part of the scene), a Russian who sinks into morbid depression thinking his deep, dark secret is about to be revealed by a colleague (all the more hysterical when the television screen plays the wrong thing), and then a 20th Century cowboy locked in a seedy motel room with his sister, who is in the shower, voiced by Bicknell as well which of course goes terribly wrong technically.
Making the series of difficulties seem like they are unplanned and happening for the first time is part of the actor’s difficult job, and Bicknell never fails to be present from moment to moment. His upset at the technical difficulties sends the actor into a tailspin with Bicknell running the gamut of emotions as he examines what he is doing with his life and questioning “how the fuck did I get here?” His riotous reaction to his lack of meaning in his life leads to yet another character choice, all the more incredible in its slow build and powerful conclusion.
So what makes a role belong to an actor? Is it the role or the actor? Whatever answer you give, see Kristopher Lee Bicknell own every single role he inhabits in DRAMATIS PERSONAE.