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Eric Schaeffer\’s Signature Theatre Is on a Roll

Merrily We Roll Along, by Stephen Sondheim with the book by George Furth, has matched the summer production hit of The Withches of Eastwick, both directed by Eric Schaeffer, cofounder of the Signature Theatre, now located in the Shirlington area of Arlington.

The Signature Theatre made a wise choice to keep the concept of the black box theatre in its chicly new venue, just above the Shirlington Library and located among the many good restaurants and coffee/drink bars, all within walking distance of the theatre.

In Merrily We Roll Along we have Helen Hays Winner Will Gartshore–whom I first saw at the Lubber Run Theatre-in-the-Park series one summer and I knew then that he was going onto a successful career–in the leading role of Franklin Shepard. Gartshore, a handsome and talented fellow, brings to the role a sensitivity that others would not have been able to match, and he can sing and dance. His leading female actors, Tracy Lynn Olivera and Bayla Whitten, are strong in their roles and strike a nice balance. The Charley Kringas role is played by Erik Liberman, and had I not seen Raúl Esparza in the same role recently at the Kennedy Center in which he brought down the house, I would have been satisfied with the telephone scene but Esparza\’s acme is hard to match.

The set design in The Witches of Eastwick by Walt Spangler and in Merrily We Roll Along by James Kronzer has proven that the black box concept is capable of great things.

Schaeffer has had the fortune to have two great lead actors in these two productions: Marc Kudisch, who played Darryl Van Horne the devil character superbly and all but stole the show; and Will Gartshore, who plays Shepard in a manner that allows the character to show various sides comes across like butta, to steal a reference to Barbra Streisand.

Visit the Signature Theatre website: Signature Theatre

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