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December 19, 2016
Review: Simon Studio Performance Lab
L to R: Robert S. Gregory as Lear and Roger H. Simon as the Fool in the KING LEAR segment.
L to R: Robert S. Gregory as Lear and Roger H. Simon as the Fool in the KING LEAR segment.

The renowned and industry-respected actor and teacher, Roger Hendricks Simon, brings the best of his students to the stage in his regular Simon Studio Performance Lab events.

The evening featured excerpts of scenes from Shakespeare’s King Lear, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet, as well as Clifford Odets' Golden Boy, John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and Christopher Hampton’s Total Eclipse.

Some of Mr. Simon’s famous alumni include John Lithgow, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, James Earl Jones, and James Woods, and Mr. Simon is deserving of every accolade ever received with the proof being in the naturalistic performances by his actors. They each possessed a very clear relationship awareness, which is no doubt is a result of Mr. Simon’s astute training. The students had a masterful grasp and very real understanding of the texts they were working with. They each brought their natural selves to the being of the character they were portraying with their own up-to-date mannerisms and reactions thus making the experience not only enjoyable, but accessible for an audience who might otherwise feel uncomfortable with the likes of Shakespeare.

There were many stand-out performances. Robert S. Gregory as King Lear was flawless, completely embodying the role of the king, both in his power-hungry moments, and later when Lear unravels into madness.

An excerpt from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet between the Nurse (Suzanne DuCharme) and Juliet (Nasreen Rahman) was a delight to watch with both actresses capturing the true essence of Shakespeare’s intention for this scene giving realistic performances.

New works performed included CJ Gelfand's Assault and Battery Park, a heartwarming story about an unlikely friendship between an older New York-born-and-raised white woman (played by Gelfand) and a young black man (played by Adrain Washington) who is struggling to pay his rent. The play takes place in Battery Park as the two neighbors discuss the shocking murder of their landlord. Gelfand also directs this very relatable and commercially viable play.

Orlando Dances by Peter Casanave begins with the spirit of a dead transvestite dancer, Orlando (played with magnetic perfection by Adrain Washington), reflecting on his own death, and then transitions into the difficult situation and the complicated after effects of the women he left behind. Casanave’s writing is sublime and director Vincent Scott manages to create an easily accepted state between reality and fantasy.

The acting is on par with the best of any off-Broadway production and is a wonderful opportunity to see excerpts of both classical and modern plays, as well as original offerings, performed in a casual environment that is both entertaining and intoxicating, and where “art” is the true star. Anyone wishing to hone their craft, or continue to nurture their acting skills, or are just simply in need of watching the highest level of acting the way it’s supposed to be done, should make every effort to attend these regular Performance Lab production events at Simon Studio.

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Written by: Tania Fisher
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