In PTP/NYC’s staging of the Barker piece, Galactia, a painter, is hired by Urgentino, the Doge of Venice, to paint a giant victory portrait reflecting the Venetians’ latest triumph at sea, in which his brother the admiral shall be represented. The sharp-tongued Galactia is at odds with the Doge from the start, but hits its peak when Galactia’s graphic painting is more of a realistic depiction of death than gallant victory homage of war. Scenes of an Execution is Barker at his finest. The narrative is clear. The story is sensational. And no matter when it’s presented, Scenes from an Execution is wonderfully relevant. Director Richard Romagnoli tells the story simply and allows Barker’s stimulating language take center stage. Though a few stray chairs thrown to the side distracted the action, Romagnoli kept the action moving and the stakes high. There may be elements of character amplification in Barker’s script but Romagnoli and his exquisite company kept them genuine and honest, allowing for them to resonate.
|photo by Stan Barouh|
To bring this production of Scenes from an Execution to life, the creative team united modern and period as one. The scenic elements by Hallie Zieselman were sleek and mobile, allowing the multi-location piece to strive. Though it is disappointing that Romagnoli didn’t utilize the structure in the back more often. Lighting designer Mark Evancho played heavily with the idea of light, or lack there of, to provide for some fascinating looks. Layering in a bit more color in a seemingly grey-scale world about art could have been nice. The costumes by Jule Emerson with Mira Veikley kept with the marriage of styles and played with the form-fitting items for the wealthy and well-to-do and the flowing garments for those below. The ease of Cormac Bluestone’s sound design was faultless. Bluestone's work with space was dynamic, allowing you to feel as if Galactia were actually in a giant room. It was a welcome touch.
Howard Barker may not always be the most accessible playwright but Scenes from an Execution certainly is. And with recent wor;d events, Scenes from an Execution is poignant as ever. And if this is in fact Jan Maxwell’s theatrical farewell, this role is a perfect one to go out on top with.