Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Lantern Theater Company
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule (updated)

McKenna Kerrigan and William Zielinski
Photo by Mark Garvin
Tom Stoppard's cold war spy thriller Hapgood opens with a labyrinthian briefcase exchange that makes three-card monte look like peek-a-boo. For several minutes the audience tries to follow along as the action moves rapidly between four small stalls, three exits, two briefcases, and at least one set of identical twins. From there, things get really complicated. Director Peter DeLaurier's crisp production at the Lantern Theater Company keeps all of the twists and turns as clear as possible, but misses out on some of the fun.

We quickly learn that the briefcase operation is actually a mole hunt conducted by the head of British intelligence, Elizabeth Hapgood (McKenna Kerrigan's multifaceted performance is superb), and things did not go as planned. Now, Hapgood and her team must figure out what went wrong, identify the real mole, and find another way to trap an agent who already knows he is being hunted. The spy story is entertaining, but what makes Hapgood truly intriguing are the ambiguous relationships, shifting loyalties, and casual discussions merging particle physics and epistemology.

From statistics in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to fractals in Arcadia, there is something magical about the way Tom Stoppard uses scientific concepts to reveal the nature of human emotion. In Hapgood, quantum mechanics becomes a way to explain shifting motivations and objectives among the secret agents plotting to identify the traitor in their midst. With remarkable warmth, particle physicist and double (triple? quadruple?) agent Kerner (William Zielinski is phenomenal) invokes wave-particle duality to reject the idea of a single authentic self; attempting to reduce a person to a single set of values or goals is as futile as trying to pin-point the location of an electron. DeLaurier highlights this theme beautifully, reveling in the contradictory aspects of human nature from the first moment to the last.

Nick Embree's impressive scenic design contributes to the production's clarity, and the swift transitions help maintain a brisk pace. Christopher Colucci's original music helps set the mood that Lily Fossner's monochromatic lighting design seems anxious to dispell. Trevor William Fayle gives off an endearingly British charm as Maggs. Christopher Patrick Mullen's dry-witted agent Blair is a perfect foil to Damon Bonetti's hotheaded agent Ridley, but both characters end up feeling a bit one dimensional. Their lack of ambiguity, combined with the production's practiced clarity, obscures the play's more farcical nature.

It may not be perfect, but this Hapgood will certainly keep you guessing and leave you with a lot to think about.

Hapgood, through October 14, 2018, at the Lantern Theater Company's St. Stephen's Theater, 10th & Ludlow Streets, Philadelphia PA. For tickets call 215-829-0395 or visit

Written by:
Tom Stoppard

Directed by:
Peter DeLaurier

Damon Bonetti as Ridley
Kirk Wendell Brown as Wates
Trevor William Fayle as Maggs
McKenna Kerrigan as Elizabeth Hapgood
Christopher Patrick Mullen as Blair
Adam Phelan as The Russian
David Pica as Merryweather
William Zielinski as Kerner
Charles LaMonaca and Will Zielsinki as Joe (at select performances)

Production Team:
Nick Embree, Scenic Designer
Natalia de la Torre, Costume Designer
Lily Fossner, Lighting Designer
Christopher Colucci, Sound Designer and Original Music
Shaelyn Weatherup, Props Master
Rebecca Smith, AEA Stage Manager