Everything is fair in love and war-especially in Chess, with book by Richard Nelson, music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, formerly of ABBA, and with lyrics by Tim Rice. Director Lisa Anne Bailey, uses the game of chess as a moral lesson in her adaptation of this love story. Each character finds themselves in a situation where they must carefully examine life-alternating options before making calculated choices. Much like chess, we all choose the right and wrong moves in life and must live with those decisions thereafter. Bailey makes that a running theme throughout the play as she takes us through an emotional ride of twists and turns within the characters lives.
Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘Chess’ has a host of great voice talent.
At the advice of his “agent” American chess champion Freddy Trumper deliberately accuses his Russian opponent Anatoly of cheating by “switching his yogurt flavors.” Trumper’s intent to garner money, media attention and fame, along with his hatred for Russians motivates him to conjure up this fictitious story, eventually leading to a long drawn out battle over the game of chess and the game of love once his dutiful assistant Florence falls in love with Anatoly. Caught in a love triangle between Anatoly and his devoted wife Svetlana (Nina Jankowicz), Florence must resolve her feelings of desertion in order to make the right choice for her ultimate happiness.
Randy Dunkle as the hot-tempered and cocky Freddy Trumper. In Dunkle’s emotional and moving music number “Pity the Child,” he reveals a life filled with feelings of loneliness. He carries feelings of resentment from being emotionally abandoned by his mother, which we ultimately learn is the reason he is unable to give love. Teresa Danskey as Florence Vassy is a beautiful woman that yearns to be loved. Her relationships with both Trumper and Anatoly are quite heartbreaking to watch, because she remains loyal to a fault even when she is clearly being mistreated.
Kensington Arts Theatre’s Chess has a host of great voice talent, but Danskey’s beautiful voice ripped the stage in ” Someone Else’s Story,” “Florence Quits,” and “Nobody’s Side.” Anatoly’s Ward Ferguson was a torn man, in love with his country, chess and Florence (Danskey). Ferguson was successful in portraying the passion of this character, and he was enjoyable to watch. Garrett Matthews Arbiter “came with it” as he put on some sultry disco moves and sang with superiority in “Arbiter’s Song.” Matthews was poised and pulled-together, but when it came to guidelines and the game of chess, he didn’t take “tea for the fever.”
The costuming was simply chic! Classic, sleek modern looks were an attractive complement to the set. James Raymond and John Nunemaker’s (scene designer) sparkly, enchanting set came complete with dashing crystal chandeliers and glittery curtains that gave the stage a fancy and upscale appearance. All of this charm came together perfectly during “One Night in Bangkok,” where dancers shook and shimmied in shiny iridescent outfits.
Applause for the ensemble (Maria Ciarrocchi, Jason Damaso, Constance Genter, Dean Reichard, Rich Shegogue, Megan Evans) for an excellent job under the music direction of Scott Richards, who’s orchestra played flawlessly, and for Cathy Oh who deserves props (Choreography) for her daring dance numbers.
Advisory: Some strong adult language and themes.
Running Time: 3 hours, with one 15-minute intermission.
Chess runs through May 30, 2015 at Kensington Arts Theatre, at Kensington Town Center, 3710 Mitchell Street,Kensington, MD 20895. For tickets click here.