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Review: Signature Theatre Wins at Chess

The current production of Chess at the Signature Theatre in Arlington is guaranteed to move even the least emotional theatre-goer.

Though the play has gone through numerous lives, as it were, and some of us have seen different versions of the production which is based on the lives of Robert James (Bobby) Fischer and Russian chess-player Boris Spassky, Signature\’s version is yet another variation. Tim Rice created the idea and the lyrics, while the book is by Richard Nelson and the music is by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson.

Eric Schaeffer, who directs, once again has a hit on his hands. As with any production, it\’s wonderful when all the elements can commingle and produce a diamond. The choreagraphy by Karma Camp is on target and the crew, on opening night, was spiked for the event. They even were able to manage to keep their timing and rhythm when Freddie (the actor playing Fischer) accidentally tossed a drink with ice cubes onto the floor from the elevated platform. More than one of us was afraid someone was going to slip.

The current version is more focused on Florence, played by Jill Paice, who is superb and had the audience with her every step of the way and in tears by the end of the play. Paice has a stunning voice and looks to match but more importantly she is able to get under the character\’s skin and this is what makes the whole play so convincing.

Both Euan Morton, who plays Anatoly Sergievsky (the Russian Spassky character), and Jeremy Kushnier, who plays Freddie Trumper (the Fischer character) bellow out great songs and emote passion. The set design by Daniel Conway and lighting by Chris Lee work in tandem and do not go over board on being patriotic but I couldn\’t help thinking where\’s Anatoly\’s homeland during the song \”Anthem.\”

There will be some in the audience who upon seeing this version might think: This isn\’t the same Chess I know. But hey, this Chess is a winner and one to keep for an extended run.

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