Driftwood Players

"A Man For All Seasons" April 1975

By Robert Bolt, Directed by W. James Brown

From the Aberdeen World

Inspiring performances in new Driftwood play
By Betty Butler
World Staff Writer

In this age of Watergate and related horrors, it is difficult for even the virtuous among us to understand a conscience strong enough to carry its owner to the gates of death.

If one is to believe what playwright Robert Bolt says in "A Man For All Seasons," which opened last night at the Driftwood Playhouse in Hoquiam, men of such conscience have always been rare. That is why Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England during the reign of King Henry VIII, was beheaded. And also why history has always remembered him.

 It's an inspiring theme, an inspiring play---and inspiring performances by a large cast with whom it is hard to find a fault.

John Wolfe has been seen in many roles on the Driftwood stage, but Thomas More is far and away his best characterization, making human, sympathetic and somehow understandable a man who, as noted above, is basically difficult for weaker mortals to identify with.

It's far easier -- to easy -- to identify with The Common Man, The Survivor, played with humor and complete cynicism by Mike Bennett -- the great man's steward, the boatman, the jailer, whatever role the moment requires of him in order to survive.

And there's Cromwell, whose machinations brought Sir Thomas to the block. His total lack of scruples, and at the same time his grudging admiration of the man he sought to destroy, were subtly and effectively brought out by Mike Sturm.

Phyllis Shrauger, as Lady Alice More, a wife who could not quite understand but only love, was responsible for one of the play's most moving moments. Equally moving was the portrait of their daughter Margaret drawn by Jennifer Sturm.

Dan Ayres' performance as Margaret's tempestuous suitor was good, and even better to those who knew that he stepped into the role midway through rehearsals.

John Eko was a believable King Henry even though he was far too slim and good-looking to reconcile with the well-known Holbein portrait of King Hal. Pat Early turned in a creditable performance as Richard Rich, the ultimate opportunist. Ernie Ingram was excellent as the bluff, less-than-brilliant but loyal Norfolk.

Performances of the smaller roles upheld the excellence of the entire production -- for which Director W. James Brown can take well-deserved bows. Bill Daves as Cardinal Wolsey, Bob Rutledge as the Spanish ambassador and Jack Shrauger as his attendant, Hank Bilderback as Archbishop Crammer, Mabs George as A Woman.

And kudos, too, to Bill Davis and Elsie Reynolds for outstanding costumes, and to Brown for simple, suggestive rather than detailed settings.

And when we conclude all this deserved praise, we return to the play itself -- and an interesting, perhaps disconcerting question.

Why, when it's so easy for us to identify with the Common Man, The Survivor and The Opportunist, do we poor humans go on through the ages saving our respect, esteem and highest admiration for the Sir Thomas Mores?

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