Queen Elizabeth (Gina Stahlnecker) is not happy. Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (Kevin Mejia) has commissioned a new performance of Richard II by William Shakespeare (Ryan Tramont). The play had been performed before, but only with 150 lines cut from it—lines which drew close parallels to the Queen herself.
This is the basis for Jason Jung’s drama, Panic!, an ambitious, full-length work, part of the 2017 Unfringed Theater Festival in Long Island City, Queens.
In the spirit of Wolf Hall, Jung mixes actual events with historical fiction, the result of which is compelling storytelling. The stakes are certainly high enough for his characters, some of whom face possible death by guillotine. One only wishes for a stronger ensemble. Draped in designer Michael Piatkowski’s stunning costumes, the cast looks fantastic, yet too many of the lines are delivered with little zeal or just plain poor acting. It’s a shame, given the rich material that they’ve been given. Should this play go on to greater development, Jung would be wise to seriously consider recasting.
Still, this is a fine, well-focused play worth seeing. At a time when the performing arts are being scrutinized at federal and local levels, this forces us to focus on what we’re willing to sacrifice for our craft.
Panic! runs through August 30th @ 7:30 PM @ The Secret Theatre (4402 23rd St, Long Island City). For tickets and information: http://secrettheatre.com/Unfringed2017.html