“Mary Stuart” by Friedrich Schiller at ACT

When two of Seattle’s finest female actors take the stage in two of theatre’s most dynamic roles . . . well then you can expect a thrilling experience. And you get it here in Director Victor Pappas’ production.

Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots (Anne Allgood), has been locked in the Tower for almost 20 years by her Protestant cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England (Suzanne Bouchard). Elizabeth must do all necessary to protect her throne. Mary must protect her life. The two women might have worked it out except for the manipulations and ambitions of the smarmy men surrounding them.

This somewhat fictionalized history reaches its climax when the two women meet. On Broadway a rainstorm increased the dramatic tension of the meeting. There’s no rain in this production, but the scene will put you on the edge of your seats anyway.

The entire cast deserves praise. You can almost feel the stomach-churning bile that accompanies the subservience of the male courtiers as they deal with these strong-minded women. And the love and heartbreak of Marianne Owen as Mary’s nurse/confidant is palpable.

Kudos to ML Geiger for lighting that intensifies the drama throughout, and to Frances Kenny for costumes that reinforce both the sexism and the power struggles.

But be aware that this is a nearly three-hour production. In these days of instant-on and quick-dissolve TV our capacity for intense concentration over long periods has been reduced. Prepare yourself for that.

Through Oct. 9 at ACT Theatre 700 Union Street, Seattle, 206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org

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