'Seeds of Banquo’ offers insight into Shakespearian actor

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

August 20, 2015


John Glowacki is Edwin Booth and Marcee Doherty-Elst is Mrs. Bowers in Theater RED’s “Seeds of Banquo.”

ST. FRANCIS - Angela Iannone, widely revered as actor and director, now has added playwright to her list of impressive accomplishments. Her love and admiration for the late Edwin Booth (1833-1893), sometimes called the greatest Shakespearian actor in America, has prompted her to write a cycle of plays around his life and international performances.

“The Seeds of Banquo,” the fourth play of the series, is gracing the stage at the Soulstice Theatre in St. Francis. Theater RED is sponsoring this fascinating and sterling production.

The play is set in Booth’s theater in New York, one he founded in 1869. Booth and one of his actor compatriots are rehearsing “Macbeth.” During the rehearsal, we become privy to his philosophy of acting, his relationship with his friend Lawrence Barrett who is set to play Banquo, his colossal ego, his personal life, and his incredible acting talents, via the intensity and grandeur of John Mundschau Glowacki. He is a force to be reckoned with, and this role taps into the depth of his gifts.

Booth came from a family of actors.  His two brothers, one of whom was the man who killed President Abraham Lincoln, were also actors, but they never reached the heights of success that Edwin did. His career was temporarily sullied after his brother, John Wilkes Booth, committed that horrendous act, but he soon recovered from that stigma and unfortunate association.

In the process of watching the rehearsal, we also meet his upcoming partner, Lady Macbeth, grandly played by Marcie Doherty-Elst; another aspiring actor, Mr. Owen Fawcett, his many minor roles rendered very convincingly by Bryan Quinn; and a young ambitious, ingŽnue, Miss Minna Gale, refreshingly performed by the lovely Sasha Katharine Sigel.

There is a rivalry between Booth and Barrett, a competitive edge and a palpable envy between them. Booth has always wanted to sire a son but has been unsuccessful thus far whereas Barrett, though not as successful as an actor, seems to be on the way to success in his progeny efforts. There is also some mutual admiration going on between them.

Besides being a meticulous perfectionist as an actor, Booth offered new insights into the interpretation of Shakespeare’s characters. Some critics were not happy with the changes he espoused and the more naturalistic style he conveyed, but his influence was widespread.

The play alternates with quotations from Shakespeare’s plays and the lines Iannone created for these actors. The boundaries between the actors’ professional and personal lives are blurred, making one wonder how an actor can ever separate the two.

All five actors are more than up to the task of re-creating the playwright’s dream of resurrecting her idol, Booth, for all of us to enjoy and marvel at. If you’re up for a mesmerizing display of talent and some engaging history, put “Seeds of Banquo” on your must-see calendar.