Nero has been reviewed in Toronto.
The rarity of a modern verse drama and the quality of the script and production make Nero, a section of a new work by Robert Sherwood, a worthwhile presentation. Set in first-century Rome and dealing with the youth of the emperor Nero, the play sets up and delivers some fine theatrical confrontations.
The best of them involve Nero (David Rubinoff) and two of the women in his life, his manipulative mother Agrippina (Angela Kaija) and the courtesan Acte (Stavroula Logothettis), equally as controlling. Scenes involving these characters create strong dramatic tension, with all three actors building on the verse to help create their roles.
Monologue scenes fare less well, while several of the other characters are merely sketches -- and sometimes played by actors who can't fill in the missing lines. Some parts, like that of Sue Martin's poisoner Locusta, are crudely, and unconvincingly overdone.
Director Nigel Harvey, aided by the masks of Peter Jarvis and the offstage vocals of Kathryn Rose, has given the production substantial theatrical spark -- enough to whet the audience's appetite for the full script.