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High Noon

A stripped down and reimagined adaptation of the classic film that’s visually arresting but emotionally uninvolving and there’s no shootout and no clocks.

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Brian Barnhart and Katie Rose Summerfield in a scene from Axis Theatre Company’s production of “High Noon” (Photo credit: Pavel Antonov)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

A triumph of superior production design and physical staging, this 60-minute theatrical adaptation of the classic 1952 film High Noon conceived by Axis Company is emotionally uninvolving. We’re in the chilly realm of Ivo van Hove territory where a prominent dramatic work is stripped down and reimagined.  That it abruptly ends before the big shootout compounds the sense of a lack psychic engagement.  There’s also no clocks which negates the film’s memorable action in real-time device.

Scenic Designer Chad Yarborough has the large, barren and circular stage set with a wood floor, wood walls, wood columns, a small wood platform and a wood saloon bar, all in shades of white, off-white and gray.  It’s a starkly accomplished landscape that serves as the various locations.

Karl Ruckdeschel’s costume design is a superb array of Old West-style garments in shimmering hues of black.  The craftsmanship of the pieces is evident by the fine tailoring to each actor’s form. They’re clearly not a thrift shop assemblage.

As striking as the sets and costumes are they’re a stylized distraction. So is David Zeffren’s hypnotic lighting design of intense brightness interspersed with strobes and bursts of dimness. Sound Designer Paul Carbonara adeptly renders the menacing effects such as rustling wind and his moody and obtrusive modern ominous original music. The movie’s theme song, “Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darlin’” is not to be heard.

Jon McCormick, Britt Genelin, Phil Gillen and George Demas in a scene from Axis Theatre Company’s production of “High Noon” (Photo credit: Pavel Antonov)

Director Randy Sharp has the cast of 10 on view and in motion for the entire time. They’re precisely and variably positioned all over the space and this yields numerous aesthetic stage pictures and tableaus. Some of which are gratuitous embellishments, such as a character fanning herself with exaggeration. Ms. Sharp has the cast often emphatically declaiming at a fast-pace adding to the artifice on display.

Gaunt and expressive, Brian Barnhart finely plays the Gary Cooper role but doesn’t make much impact due to this piece’s ensemble-driven agenda. Katie Rose Summerfield does well as his newly wed Quaker wife played by Grace Kelly in the film. The forceful Britt Genelin is a standout as the town’s shady lady.

Spencer Aste, Andrew Dawson, George Demas, Phil Gillen, Jon McCormick, Nicholas McGovern, and Brian Parks all offer strong characterizations as the timorous townspeople and assorted villains with old-time Hollywood flair.

Directed by Fred Zinnemann, produced by Stanley Kramer and written by Carl Foreman, High Noon was released during the era of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy and the anti-Communist witch hunts.  It has been interpreted by many as a moral parable.

Phil Gillen, Brian Parks and George Demas in a scene from Axis Theatre Company’s production of “High Noon” (Photo credit: Pavel Antonov)

The happy occasion of retiring Marshall Will Kane’s marriage to Amy Fowler in the territory of New Mexico is marred by bad news. Frank Miller, a brutal desperado whom Kane sent to jail, has been released and is arriving on the noon train.  Miller’s gang is around and plans to meet him and take revenge on Kane. Kane attempts to form a posse to combat Miller and his cohorts but no one in the town will join him.

Conceived by the Axis Company, this treatment oddly renames the characters which is just one of its many baffling qualities that perhaps seeks to comment on the present. It’s really High Noon in title only. Visually arresting it’s ultimately a showy exercise in mere stagecraft without resonance.

High Noon (through March 24, 2018)

Axis Theatre Company

Axis Theatre, One Sheridan Square, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.axiscompany.org

Running time: 60 minutes with no intermission

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Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (539 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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