Fundamental Theater Project
Benefit Reading
Friday November 19th, 2010 - 7pm
Irish Arts Center
(553 West 51st Street between 10th and 11th Avenues) - New York City 

by Chris 

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Many Thanks to Chris!

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Fundamental Theater Project presents

I was quite surprised when I called to purchase my ticket to this play and Sam Underwood answered the phone. (He plays Hamlet) When he asked me how I heard about this, I started to say, 'Well I saw Anthony and Cleopatra last month and I found out...'  he cut in with a resounding 'Oh you saw Kate!?!! How was it? I couldn't make it cause I was stuck filming in England.'  And we were off and running chatting about Kate. Apparently he is a big fan of her work and was tickled she came on board to play Gertrude. We spoke for about 20 minutes and he did say he was going to see her perform at the Project Shaw this Monday.

I made it to the theater for Hamlet and met up with the other women I was meeting there. I can't really call this place a theater. To me it resembled a renovated one engine fire house. (fans from NY or who have seen these, will understand) It's long and narrow.  When you walked in the doors you were immediately in the lobby area. There was a little bar set up in the corner and a few low lying wood benches up against the wall for you to sit on while waiting for the door to open.  No room for coat check.  The place was small. Mind you, not intimate... small.   When you went into the theater area, you walked down a narrow aisle with a low wall on the right to hide the seating area.  (I was having flashbacks of being born walking down that narrow walkway)  The rows were about 10 seats across and about 12 rows deep.   The stage was set up for the reading.  There were silver folding chairs for the actors and the musical stands to rest the binders on.  To the left of the stage was a piano pushed off to the side, and to the right was microphones. So not all of the stage could be utilized. The actors came up the same walkway as we did to get to the stage.  I had to laugh cause when Kate got towards the end of the walkway, she poked her head up and was peeking over the little wall at the audience checking us out. Then she popped back down and caught up with everyone to get on stage. 

All 12 actors were on the stage at the same time. With the main characters being in the front row.  Once the play began, I was truly impressed with Sam Underwood. A nice range with his voice and emotions. I think he will go far with his acting career. 

Visual time.  Kate was in a black turtle neck long sleeve sweater. A dark charcoal gray skirt that came to her knees, black thick shiny stockings and knee high black velvet boots with about a 2 heel. For jewelery all she wore was simple earrings and a thick silver bracelet on her left arm. Hair was down and loose like in LL&WIW.

No matter how small the part or the place, Kate really does bring her 'A' game. She was as usual outstanding. When she wasn't up and acting, she would sit there looking at the book, following the play. Watch the other actors performing. You could see by her facial expressions she was enjoying the play. 

The only thing we probably did not enjoy was the temperature in the theater. It was hot! You could see the sweat beading off of Alec and Sam. The men who wore blazers onto the stage very quickly took them off.  Kate a few times pushed her sleeves up a bit, would pull her hair back off her shoulders and even pulled the collar away from her neck a few times. They were all professionals and didn't let it bother their performance. Once their time came up to act again, they never let on they were bothered by the heat.

Robert Zukerman who played Polonius was very funny. James Rado who played the Ghost and Player King was also very good. He did each character so differently you had no problem with him portraying two different characters.  Of other note was the gentleman who played the grave digger. Who was supposed to be Scott Adsit but couldn't make it at the last minute. Someone else stepped in at the last moment and was very funny and quirky. 

I want to mention Joseph Yeargain who played Rosencrantz. From his bio he seems to be new to the acting scene.  His first scene is with Kate, and another actor Jeffrey Omura who plays Horatio. They were all great, Joseph was doing very well and when he turned to deliver his first lines to Kate, (who was standing there staring at him like the Queen she was playing) He stuttered. She didn't bat an eye and just kept going along with the scene. It was cute in a way. He was fabulous whenever he was up there, he only stuttered when he had to interact with Kate. I am sure he was just as in awe with her as everyone else was that night.

I wasn't sure about the pairing of Kate and Alec, but they worked really well off each other. Alec brings his quirky personality to the stage and it worked well as he played Claudius. He played him almost like a mild mannered King. He kept his voice modulated and almost soft spoken. Which is why I was so surprised when he went into a tirade of fury during one scene. It had that much more of an impact. I actually jumped a bit.

After the play we were all lead back into the lobby area where they had a nice spread of finger foods and an open bar to indulge ourselves. We were given our cast signed playbill which actually was a mini poster of the playbill's cover. They had a photographer there who was taking pictures of all the cast members and what not. It was hot in there also so we stepped outside to cool off, and noticed Kate was already heading down the street.  She made it to the corner with someone she was walking with and then turned around and came back up the street.  As she passed the theater she looked across the street at us and noticed us standing there. One of the women in our group knows Kate and Kate stopped to say hi and sorry she was leaving so quickly but it was just to much in there. Now mind you, this is all being said yelling across the street. Finally Kate just stopped, darted between two cars, looked both ways and ran across the street to us. She chatted with each of us and thanked us each personally for coming down to see the play.. She said it was so tight up on the stage that she and Alec were bouncing off each other. And so hot that heat was just emanating off Alec. I said it was claustrophobic in there and she agreed. She then asked if we were going to Project Shaw to which we all said yes. She was thrilled and said she would chat more then and we would have a much more fun time. One of the ladies with us looked at her friend and said, 'you look familiar'. Kate turned and introduced us to Chivonne Michele Floyd, she played Iras, Cleopatra's attendant last month in Hartford. So of course we all had to tell her how wonderful the play was and how wonderful she was. She thanked us, then Kate again thanked us for coming and then they both left together. We were all thrilled that she took the time to stop and speak with us.

Next out was Alec Baldwin. He was very nice and stopped and took a picture with us all. I have to chuckle cause the actor who played Laertes, Daniel Smith took the photo for us. Actually he followed us around and was our personal photographer. He took our pics with Sam Underwood and just some group shots of us ladies. So of course we had to get a photo with Daniel. He was very gracious and takes wonderful photos.

The place is nice, but too small for an event with actors of this magnitude. It will serve the theater life nicely with plays of a smaller cast with new and upcoming actors.

Keep an eye out for Sam Underwood. The movie he just finished filming The Art of Love also stars Olympia Dukakis and Aidan Quinn. If he is as good in the movie as he was this night, he will be in a lot of other movies and plays.

Seeing a reading of a play is immensely different then a play. There's no sets, costumes, music, or moving around the stage to help convey what is going on. It's just the actor, the script, their voice and facial expressions. Not all actors can accomplish this. Kate is one of the few who can do it with such precision. To stand up there for almost two hours and take us back to an era of Kings, Queens, murder and betrayal with just her voice and body language is truly a rare and powerful talent.

All in all a great night with many laughs, fond memories and new friends.