QUASI-NO-NO

King's staging is energetic and often inventive, although he has urged his actors to demonstrate their every thought and feeling. This crowd mugs relentlessly. My favorite directorial touch is the use of actors in masks to suggest the haunting presence of the gargoyles that perch about the cathedral at Notre Dame with such pervasive angst.

The physical production is aided by evocative yet simple sets by Mark Tiemeyer, although Randy Levine's lighting often leaves the action in the dark, with the light mysteriously focused elsewhere.

Far worse than King's staging is his heavy-handed performance as the duplicitous priest. He never misses an opportunity to underline his ever-so-apparent subtleties. Quasimodo breaking the priest's neck provides the most satisfying moment in the show.

Jocelyn Nadine Halverson wears a sour little pout of boredom that keeps her from being as alluring as she is meant to be as Esmeralda, nor can she summon the spiritual grace to engage our sympathy. It is difficult to see the sexual magnetism of the handsome Phoebus in the relatively plain Jeffery C. Hawkins, but he plays the rou‚ with a randy horniness that is almost attractive in a redneck sort of way.

Christopher M. Williams is serviceable as the poet/narrator/husband Ren‚, as are Keith Wick and M. V. Moorhead in supporting roles.

Only James Ward is able to induce empathy in the actor-proof role of Quasimodo. In what is the production's only instance of restraint, Ward plays the title character without a hump, choosing to act the deformity rather than use a prosthetic aid. With his heavy, squatting frame, Ward is able to elicit genuine pathos from the audience, in a part that permits, even demands, theatrical excess. His modest Quasimodo, hiding behind a half-mask, is a welcome relief from the histrionics that surround him.

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