They ate their Wheaties

Duellists: The Forgotten Champions

Created by Rod Kinter and Joseph Travers
Stage and Fight Direction by Rod Kinter , Ricki G. Ravitts, Jim Robinson, Joseph Travers
Theatre Ten Ten
1010 Park Avenue (288-3246 x3)
Equity showcase (closes Mar. 6)
Review by Mark Harborth

Go see this show! Rod Kinter, Ricki G. Ravitts, Jim Robinson and Joseph Travers have put together an amazing evening of live-action theatre. Originally created by Rod Kinter and Joseph Travers, Duellists is billed as "an evening of swashbuckling stage combat," but truly it is much more. The directors began by researching famous actual duels throughout history; most are unknown to non-stage-combat enthusiasts. Then they each wrote or adapted the events for the stage. It was a totally collaborative process in the sense that the writer or director was not necessarily the fight director for a given piece.

A company of 25 highly skilled performers presented an evening consisting of eight short pieces ranging in period from 1547 to 1958. Each began with an expository scene that sets up the motivating events leading to a duel, and then concluded with the duel itself. Surprisingly, there was a tremendous amount of comedy throughout the night, juxtaposed with the more tender -and, in some cases, tearful - moments.

Without exception, the stage combat was flawless. The years of training were plainly evident in the realism of the fight sequences. The idea behind stage combat being to present the illusion of an out-an-out brawl, all the while preserving the safety of the actor and the audience. In this case, the results were breathtaking. This, however, leads into the area of acting. Not only must these performers execute a learned skill, but they are also characters in a vignette. It is the combination of supremely talented actors who happen to be skillful technicians that made this evening soar. Fine performances were turned out by all, but of particular note were Jacob Thomas and Justin Ray Thompson, because of the versatility and ingenuity with which they portrayed their extremely diverse characters.

There was absolutely no set to speak of. Nor was it needed, save a functional chair or table here and there; merely a blank stage. The lighting by Doug Filomena was serviceable and helped to shift the focus and the mood, but seemed to be somewhat hampered by some faulty, flickering equipment. Most outstanding of the technical aspects were the beautiful costumes by coordinator Barbara Brandt. The detail and appropriateness of all the garments were enough to make any Renaissance festival envious.

Kudos to Messrs Kitner and Travers for creating a magical evening of superb theatre. And congratulations to the actors and producers for a job extremely well done. Go see this show! (Also featuring Angela Bonacasta, Campbell Bridges, Nicole Callendar, Mary Carpenter, Judy Chesnutt, Jeff DeRocker, Al Foote III, John Holly, Jason Kuschner, Justin Lewis, Alfredo Milan, Andrew Oswald, Daniela Rapp, James Riemer, J. R. Robinson, Monica Russell, Mark James Schryver, Lauren Seikaly, Paul Stafford, Jacob Thomas, and Justin Thompson.)

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: N/A
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1999 Mark Harborth