Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Second Shepherds' Play
Folger Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley and Silver Belles

Ryan Sellers and Tonya Beckman
Photo by Brittany Diliberto
Audiences looking for a Christmas-themed performance with no nutcracker princes, Scrooges, or Grinches will find unexpected and satisfying entertainment at Washington's Folger Theatre, where the Folger Consort early music ensemble has joined with director/adapter Mary Hall Surface and a company of actors to present The Second Shepherds' Play.

This medieval work, previously produced at the Folger in 2007, tells the story of the nativity from the viewpoint of three rough English shepherds: Coll (Louis E. Davis), who gripes about the cold and the fact that he is poor while the nobles live well; Gib (Matthew R. Wilson), hiding from his contentious wife; and the boy Daw (Megan Graves), who describes the severe weather he has encountered.

Before the story turns to mysteries and miraculous births, the shepherds must deal with sly sheep-stealer Mak (Ryan Sellers), his clever wife Gill (Tonya Beckman), and a recalcitrant sheep (a puppet controlled by Malinda Kathleen Reese) hidden in a cradle. The unknown author presents all times and places as one, so the medieval shepherds can travel easily from their home in wintry northern England to ancient Bethlehem, guided by an angel (Emily Noël) and a star, to greet Mary (gracious Lilian Oben) and the baby Jesus.

Musicians Robert Eisenstein, Brian Kay, and Daniel Meyers, performing with period instruments, add to the enchantment with melodies from the 14th through 16th centuries, mostly instrumental works but also carols and wassailing songs performed by the actors.

Surface and her cast engage the audience as a troupe of traveling players, dressed in simple costumes designed by Adalia Tonneyck (except for one, a glittering surprise) and performing on Tony Cisek's unadorned platform set with a few necessary furnishings. Cleverly and amusingly, puppets designed by Aaron Cromie represent the actors as they climb up and down hills between the shepherds' field and the home of Mak and Gill.

Folger Consort
The Second Shepherds' Play
November 7th - December 21st, 2016
Adapted and directed by Mary Hall Surface
Gill. Tonya Beckman
Ensemble: Danny Cackley
Coll: Louis E. Davis
Musician: Robert Eisenstein
Daw: Megan Graves
Musician: Brian Kay
Musician: Daniel Meyers
Angel/Ensemble: Emily Noël
Mary/Ensemble: Lilian Oben
Sheep/Ensemble: Malinda Kathleen Reese
Mak: Ryan Sellers
Gib: Matthew R. Wilson
Music director: Robert Eisenstein
Folger Shakespeare Library, Elizabethan Theatre
201 E. Capitol St., SE
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-544-7077 or

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