Saturday, December 15, 2012

Volpone

Four hundred years after it was written, Volpone remains a delight. Volpone is a con artist, and his con is simple. He lets it be widely know that he is dying--and choosing an heir--and the pigeons line up eagerly with expensive gifts in hopes of being his chosen one. Although playwright Ben Jonson saw Volpone's victims not as pigeons but as carrion birds, naming them Voltore (the vulture), Corbaccio (the raven), and Corvino (the crow), pigeons they are, letting their greed blind them to their own idiocy.

Stephen Spinella, Tovah Feldshuh
What could be more timely? From 1606 to 2012, the goal of the grifter continues to be getting the pigeon to want to give away her money. Bernie Madoff didn't recruit his victims. Instead, they practically begged him to be included.

But where Madoff and his victims are just depressing, Jonson's characters are deliciously larger-than-life in both their cupidity and their stupidity, and their machinations are silly and entertaining. In Red Bull's rollicking production, the reliable Stephen Spinella gives us a cheerful Volpone, happily reveling in his tongue-lolling rottenness. And among the excellent supporting case, Rocco Sisto and Alvin Epstein stand out for the vividness of their creations. The efficient direction is by Jesse Berger, with set design by John Arnone, costume design by Clint Ramos, lighting design by Peter West, choreography by Tracy Bersley, and original music by Scott Killian.

It's difficult to say whether it is wonderful or depressing that a play from 1606 remains so apropos, but it is easy to say that this is a Volpone worth seeing.

(press ticket; fifth row on the aisle)

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