>On Saturday night I saw the American Shakespeare Center‘s production of Ben Jonson’s Volpone. This is the third of five shows I’ve seen during this “Actors’ Renaissance Season” in which directors are dispensed with. (Previously I saw Macbeth and Cymbeline.)
And it’s a smash, one of the funniest pieces of theater I’ve experienced. For those who don’t know (I didn’t), the play is set in Venice and apparently Jonson took pains to bring in real Venetian place-references, unlike Shakespeare who rarely bothered. To summarize the action, here’s this from the program:
VOLPONE, childless, rich, feighs sick, despairs,
Offers his state to hopes of several heirs,
Lies languishing: his parasite receives
Presents of all, assures, deludes; then weaves
Other cross plots, which ope themselves, are told.
New tricks for safety are sought; they thrive: when bold,
Each tempts the other again, and all are sold.
All very hilarious, with a tidy moralistic ending.
The play is a masterpiece, but the production is brilliant. There are no weak spots here and the company is cast perfectly. John Harrell’s Volpone is wonderful – decadent, deceitful, greedy, and in the end wounded by the treachery of Moska, played to perfection by Benjamin Curns. Unlike Shakespeare where it is sometimes difficult to keep the various characters straight, the trio of Voltore, Corbaccio and Corvino (fantastically played here by James Keegan, David Loar and Tyler Moss) are wildly distinct, made moreso by the great performances. The female characters have less to do in this play, but Alyssa Wilmoth is perfect as Celia, Corvino’s wife, played as a blond bimbo, and Allison Glenzer is better than ever as Lady Would-be, the wife of Sir Politic Would-be. And speaking of whom, Rick Blunt, who plays Sir Politic and also Androgyno, Volpone’s hermaphrodite, really shines in this show. As I said: no weak spots.
Still to see this season: Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta and Thomas Middleton’s The Witch