Chess

By Elizabeth Green

Have you ever wondered what "Casablanca" would be like updated and staged as a musical? How about the evening news set to music? Well, put this all together and you have the most recent Broadway Series offering, "Chess."

Several cast members play news people who are carrying video cameras and covering a chess tournament. The signals from the cameras are fed to a multi-sectioned TV screen over the stage, enabling the audience to watch the action on the screen, while at the same time watching the performances in the context of the entire cast on the stage itself. The result is the ultimate split screen.

Being able to read the actors lips from the balcony gives the audience the feeling of being part of the action on the stage. "Chess" is the story of love and political intrigue surrounding a chess match between the American champion, played by Stephen Bogardus and the Russian challenger, played by John Herrera. Both contestants are in love with the American player's second, acted by Carolee Carmello.

She is the expatriate daughter of a famous Czechoslovakian chess champion who was killed by the Russians. Various twists and turns in the plot, of the sort found in "Casablanca," eventually lead to a resolution, but I won't tell you who gets the girl. The only real winners here are the governments involved.

Thankfully, the music and excellent acting keep "Chess" from being as depressing as the evening news. The music is upbeat and lively and used more as a counterpoint to the action than a method to further the seriousness of the plot.

Some of the acting is also used to lighten the mood. Bogardus handles his character as a cross between American chess master Bobby Fisher and the title character from the rock opera "Tommy." Of course, the stereotypical Russian KGB agents abound as well as the equally recognizable members of 'the CIA. Through all of the action and the not-always-safe, romantic streets of Bangkok, Ken Ard, as the arbiter, calmly tries to bring order out of the chaos.

The music and acting in "Chess" lift an extremely ordinary plot into a very entertaining evening. The bottom line is, if you loved "Casablanca," you'll want to go see "Chess."