Mut – German for courage. Only one of the many words to describe the cast of the Pennington Players as they performed a powerful performance of the Tony Award-winning play, Terrence McNally’s MASTER CLASS. Courageous. More descriptive words would be captivating, passionate, and downright talented. If there was an error made, on stage or behind the scenes, it did not show in their portrayal of the life and loves of the legendary opera diva Maria Callas.
At the show’s core, Callas, a glamorous, commanding, larger-than-life, caustic, and surprisingly hilarious educationalist is holding a voice master class. Alternately disappointed and impressed by the students who perform before her, she retreats into recollections about the glories of her own life and career. Included in her reflections are her younger years as overweight and unattractive, her hatred for her rivals and naysayers, her triumphs at La Scala, and her affair with Aristotle Onassis. She dares the students to make the same sacrifices and rise above their challenges as well.
Laurie Hardy, who has performed extensively throughout the Central New Jersey area, sets the mood with her spell-binding, poignant representation of Callas; her performance was charismatic and unforgettable. Hardy’s stature was one of beauty and poise that was truly enchanting; a born performer, if you will, and we look forward to seeing her in future shows.
Soprano Jenne Carey (Sophie DePalma), soprano Eileen Cooper (Sharon Graham), and tenor Timothy Walton (Anthony Candolino) are classically trained opera singers and all three deliver spectacular acting and vocal performances. Cooper’s performance of Verdi’s “Vieni t’affretta” was notably sung with ease and precision. Andrew Monath displayed the perfect coprophilous grin for the brown-nosing on-stage accompanist Manny Weinstock and Tara Gruber Etter bravely conquered her role as the stagehand and did it very well.
Not knowing much about the life of Callas, we left the theater wanting to learn more. The set was simple and the moods were animated with the lighting and an enjoyable background slideshow of photos of the young Callas.
Opera buff or not, theater lovers will enjoy this production. There is only one weekend left as of this review to catch this emotionally charged show. Highly recommended.
by Terrence McNally
Directed by Judi Parrish
February 21 – March 3, 2014
Talk Back Session on Friday Feb 28
The Pennington Players
Kelsey Theater at Mercer
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ 08550