Review of A Man for All Seasons

Just thought I’d put up the review in the Pasadena Voice that the Pasadena Theatre Company got for our April/May production of A Man for All Seasons. It’s the first non-school review I’ve received that mentions me by name (bolded)!

Pasadena Theatre Company’s A Man For All Seasons Riveting Theater

By Mary P. Johnson

I’ve seldom experienced more riveting entertainment provided by Pasadena Theatre Company than their recent production of Robert Bolt’s classic play A Man For All Seasons presented over two weekends in late April and early May at Chesapeake Arts Center Studio 194.

Bolt’s play first appeared on Broadway in 1961 where it ran for more than a year and was awarded the Tony for best play in 1962.// Actor Paul Scofield played the Sir Thomas More role to win both the Tony and later the Oscar for his film portrayal.

The plot is based on the historical 16th century Chancellor of England cleric destined for sainthood Thomas More who refused to endorse Henry VIII’s wish to divorce Catherine of Aragon because she could not bear him a son as his excuse to marry Anne Boleyn.

A man defined by his conscience, loyal to the dictates of the Church despite the Pope’s being described as corrupt, Thomas More eventually resigns the Chancellorship but remains loyal to King Henry, refusing to support a rebellion on the Scottish border. Despite relinquishing his Chancellorship, Sir Thomas More was eventually brought to trial on false charges and executed.

Pasadena’s production was directed by Stephen Deininger, who is perhaps better known as a skilled versatile local actor. Here he proved a capable director pacing action in this demanding play and selecting a first-rate cast with every actor well suited to each role.

PTC stalwart Chuck Dick plays Sir Thomas More, the veteran actor delivering a thoughtful, nuanced performance in this demanding role requiring his presence in almost every scene for nearly three hours of philosophical debate.// His Sir Thomas expresses every line to evoke thoughtful responses from the audience along with their welcome occasional smiles.

Dick had a fine supporting cast to play loving family members and scoundrels of varying degrees.

Each role contains faceted elements, expertly revealed.

In the role of the Common Man and Narrator, Tom Rendulic amusingly guided the audience through the narrative while proving his versatility in the roles of More’s servant, a boatman, More’s jailor, the jury foreman and More’s executioner, always adding wry humor and conveying a sense of reluctance in his need to survive by recognizing the weaknesses of his superiors.

James Poole as Cambridge student Master Richard Rich gave a credible portrayal of a young man who has few restraints imposed by his conscience, moving ahead by befriending others lusting for power. Poole’s Rich is eventually commits perjury that results in More’s execution.

Outstanding players include Keith Thompson as the Duke of Norfolk, who remains loyal to Sir Thomas but is inclined to go along with the crowd rather than take the higher road of conscience.//

Elizabeth Simonaire plays Sir Thomas More’s wife Lady Alice, growing in the role as she witnesses the unjust fate of her beloved husband. Playing their daughter Lady Margaret is Morgan Wright, who delivers a sensitive performance. Her husband the impetuous William Roper is strongly played by Cole Matson.

As the enigmatic villain Oliver Cromwell, Tim Sayles commands his every scene.

In summary PTC’s A Man For All Seasons will remain in the memories of audience members who were fortunate to attend any of the six performances at Chesapeake Arts Center Studio 194.

I’ve decided to choose St. Thomas More as my patron (although you might say he chose me). It’s partially through his story that I came to the Church, and he’s one of the first true historical heroes I was inspired by, back in high school when I saw the Paul Scofield film for the first time in A.P. Modern European History class. More said about Will Roper, his Lutheran son-in-law, “I will clean give him over, and get me for a while to God and pray for him,” after which Will returned to the Church, which he never left again. It was an honor to be able to play Roper, and for me doing the play felt somewhat like a re-enactment, during which I came to believe that St. Thomas was praying for me as well.

I admire St. Thomas for his:

1) Integrity and commitment to conscience (although not with the same emphasis on the self that one could interpret the Bolt play to have)

2) Loyalty and deference to proper authority (even the King, when the King was his enemy, as far as was lawful)

3) Commitment to religious discipline and study, even as a layman, and joyfulness and thoroughness in leading his family in the practice of the Faith

4) Gentleness, meekness, and charity toward those who persecuted him

5) His refusal to judge others, and only judge his own actions, following the precept of Thomas à Kempis in the Imitation of Christ: “Judge yourself, and beware of passing judgement on others. In judging others, we expend our energy to no purpose; we are often mistaken, and easily sin. But if we judge ourselves, our labour is always to our profit” (trans. Leo Sherley-Price, 1952 – I’m reading a selection of this every day, and this was from today’s reading).

St. Thomas More’s virtue is so very far above my own, but I hope, through his intercession, to get a wee bit closer by the end of my life.

(Oh, and Sir Thomas studied at Oxford as well, at Canterbury Hall, which was subsequently absorbed into Christ Church College. Oxford men unite!)

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