The cast also has its share of problems. Angela Loftus as Young Elizabeth and playwright Lorella Loftus as Middle-Aged Elizabeth both confuse shrieking and shouting for acting. Michael Costilla as Robert Dudley brings no chemistry to his relationship with Elizabeth, making it incredibly difficult to understand why she carried a torch for the man through the majority of her life. Xander Slay-Tamkin and Giovanni Sandoval struggle with the accents for their multitude of characters, and the rest of the ensemble fades into the background.
However, there are some bright spots in the cast and crew. Ann Marie Gordon's set design is simplistic but effective, and Patrick Anthony's lighting design is beautiful. Among the cast, Richard Dodwell gives a strong turn as William Cecil and Nikki Zook is fantastic as the calloused and cold Mary Tudor and as the apparition of Mary Queen of Scots. It's a pity she only gets three scenes out of the aforementioned 36 to showcase her immense talents. But the show's true saving grace is Jennifer Underwood as the Elderly Elizabeth. She plays Elizabeth as a wise, reflective, and cunning leader, and her portrayal is near perfection.
While I assume that Loftus's goal with her original play was to offer the Austin theater community a fitting tribute to England's Virgin Queen, this isn't it. Though the intention is strong, the execution is lacking. Still, with a subject matter like Queen Elizabeth, Loftus could turn this troubled play around with some rewrites. I hope if she's reading that she keeps in mind that Elizabeth herself wasn't wildly popular initially...
Run time: 2 hours and 40 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
ELIZABETH: HEART OF A KING plays The Vortex Theater at 2307 Manor Road, Austin, 78722 now thru January 26, 2013. Performances are Thursday thru Sunday at 8pm.
Tickets are $10-$30. For tickets and information, please visit http://www.vortexrep.org