On Stage: Women Beware Women by Thomas Middleton

ascI saw the American Shakespeare Center’s production of Thomas Middleton’s Women Beware Women at the Blackfriars Playhouse last night. The third show mounted in this year’s Actors’ Renaissance Season (along with The Tempest and Measure for Measure), I expect it will improve and gain polish over the coming weeks, and I very much look forward to seeing it again.

Middleton would probably be labeled a “misogynist” today, and he certainly doesn’t cut the women in this play any slack, but then the men don’t fare much better: A sailor returns home from a voyage with his “stolen treasure,” the beautiful Bianca, and installs her in his mother’s house where she is to be kept hidden. But the Duke catches sight of her and must have her, which is easily arranged. Meanwhile, a foolish nobleman is trying to marry his daughter off to the foolish heir of another nobleman, except that the father’s brother has designs on his niece. The girl’s aunt convinces her that it’s okay to love her uncle because he’s not really her uncle (except that he really is). And when that aunt sees the sailor who is distraught because the Duke is sleeping with his wife, she manages to make him her boy-toy. All very sleazy and fun, until the Cardinal warns of the wrath of God.

Entertaining stuff and nicely done on stage. If I had to single out one highlight in the production I would say the incestuous relationship between Hippolito (Chris Johnston) and his niece Isabella (Lauren Ballard) is especially worth watching.

Another outstanding production of the American Shakespeare Center.

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