>If you like mayhem, The Revenger’s Tragedy is the play for you.
I was not familiar with it, but that’s one of the great things about the American Shakespeare Center—not only am I constantly learning more about the plays I think I know, but also I’m exposed to new and more obscure plays. That’s especially true during the Actors’ Renaissance Season, and this year, along with this play (and two by Shakespeare), we’re getting another Middleton and a play by George Chapman, all from around the same period in the late 16th or early 17th Century. (See these helpful notes about the play.)
This play focuses on Vindice, who seeks revenge against the Duke for the killing of his betrothed. He’s also not happy with the Duke’s son, who is pursuing Vindice’s sister. But there are also the nefarious stepsons of the Duke, engaged in various plots and misdeeds, and the Duke’s bastard son, who is having an affair with the Duke’s new wife. In the end, the stage is littered with bodies.
The remarkable thing about the Actors’ Renaissance Season is that the company puts on outstanding productions in a very short period that allows for just a few rehearsals. It almost doesn’t seem possible, but they’ve done it again with this one.
Vindice, who carries around with him the skull of his dead lover, is played by Benjamin Curns. Curns does a great job with this single-minded, revenge-driven character. Vindice’s brother Hippolito is played by Alyssa Wilmoth, and together they plot the downfall of the Duke (Chris Seiler) while at the same time they undermine the Duke’s son, Lussurioso, played by John Harrell. Harrell makes a terrific villain, but he’s not the only bad guy here. Gregory Jon Phelps is Spurio, the Duke’s bastard son, and it doesn’t take much for the Duchess, played by Sarah Fallon, to seduce him. Then there are the Duchess’s sons, with the great names of Ambitioso (Thomas Keegan), Supervacuo (Chris Johnston), and Junior (Nolan Carey). They’re made up in white face, lipstick and nail polish, and it’s clear they’re up to no good. I loved the scenes between the disguised Vindice and his sister Castiza, played wonderfully by Miriam Donald, and their mother Gratiana, played by Allison Glenzer. The audience can see Gratiana bend to the argument made by Vindice and also Vindice’s horror that he’s been able to convince his mother to sacrifice Castiza to Lussurioso. (You’ve got to love these names—very helpful in keeping the character’s intentions straight.)
In your lifetime you won’t get many chances to see this play, so book your tickets now!
>There’s clearly something in the wind at the moment as regards the group of playwrights in Shakespeare’s penumbra… there was just a production of Middleton’s WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN here in New York – the first in decades – that I had the chance to work on a little bit. Got great reviews, just ended what was always planned as a limited engagement. But the company that did it, Red Bull, has also done Revenger’s Tragedy, Pericles, and Edward II in the last few years as well and has gotten lots of good press every time.