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A CurtainUp Berkshire Feature

We're just keeping each other." — Mrs. Hapgood
Jake Weber and Kate Burton (Photo credit:T.Charles Erickson )
Williamstown Theater Festival has staged some of my favorite Tom Stoppard plays. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Nikos in 1999 and On the Razzle on its main stage in 2005. This season they've now brought back Stoppard as well one of their most beloved actors, Kate Burton, for a revival of Hapgood, Stoppard's twisty tale about British spies in the late 1980s.

This somewhat too clever by far espionage thriller isn't my favorite Stoppard. The plot is too insistently obscure, especially in the first act. I was nevertheless eager to see Burton who's one of my own as well as WTFs favorites, in the title role, especially since her colleagues on stage included some other top thespians. Unfortunately, I was not able to make my scheduled visit to the Nikos so here's hoping you, dear reader, will make it before the July 21st closing. In the meantime, some comments on what you can expect.

According to feedback from some of my colleagues and neighbors who did get to see Hapgood, Burton is terrific, as are the actors playing her team of spies. What's more, director Evan Yionoulis seems to have once again proved her ability to insure a smoothly flowing, well-paced, visually interesting production — abetted by an outstanding crafts team that includes lighting design by her husband Donald Holder and original music brother Mike Yionoulis. Ms. Burton is sure to be appropriately attired by outstanding costumer Michael Krass (not a relative except in the sense of the kinship between theater people.. So, my advice is this. Don't worry about feeling more than a little clueless by Stoppard's tendency to show off with obtuse allusions. Just go if you can, and sit back and enjoy the acting and staging.

In case you want some advance clarification, the plot in an over-the-limit tweet: The story revolves around a group of British secret agents searching for a mole within their own ranks. Sensitive documents are being leaked to the Russian KGB about the latest Star Wars-style defense weapon and all clues indicate that the ever elusive unseen enemy is a member of Mrs. Hapgood's team.

Mrs. Hapgood is herself a master of all trades. She cooly, and often jokingly, breaks bureaucratic rules as part of her spymastering. She manages to stay ahead of the men around her, maintain her Mother of the Year status and play a mean game of chess. This Martha Stewardesque James Bond role seems eminently suited to Burton. As Rich See said when he saw a DC revival in DC (other actors and creatives) "No doubt like Martha Stewart, Mrs. Hapgood makes her own paper, harvests her own wheat and keeps abreast of all the latest developments in technology."

The men surrounding Burton's "Mother" are no less intriguing and by act two the very personal secret she shares with Most her double agent informer Kerner (Jake Weber) will be clarified.

About the likelihood of your feeling too confused to "get it" all, it doesn't really matter. Stoppard seems to have written this play to show up the espionage game as a self-creating industry. — which, alas, it still is if you've followed the pointless expenditure of billions of dollars to keep people in the snooping game busy but mostly ineffective.

For more about Tom Stoppard and plays reviewed at Curtainup, see our Tom Stoppard page
Hapgood by Tom Stoppard
Directed by Evan Yionoulis
Cast: Kate Burton (Mrs. Hapgood), Reed Birney (Blair), Euan Morton (Ridley),Jake Weber (Kerner), Nick Carter (Cotton), Adam Langdon (Joe), Sathya Sridharan (Maggs), David Corenswet (Merryweather);WTF acting apprentices Brady Dowad as (Russian), Christian Schneider (Mac), Phillip Esposito and Stephan Amenta (Ensemble). Scenic Design: Christopher Barreca and Christopher Heilman
Dialect Coach: Deb Hecht
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Costumes: Michael Krass
Sound Design: Alex Neumann
Original Music: Mike Yionoulis
Stage Manager: Vest. From 7/10/13; opening 7/11/13; closing 7/21/13
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