Friday, March 05, 2010

The Duchess of Malfi

The Red Bull theatre company specializes in "plays of heightened language." Its latest production, an adaptation of John Webster's gruesome tragedy The Duchess of Malfi, certainly fills the bill. Written in the early 17th century center, The Duchess of Malfi follows the misadventures of the titular duchess, a widow who marries the man she loves despite her brothers' having forbidden her to marry at all. The Red Bull production rushes along, even when taking its time would be a better choice. The cast is uneven; many of the performers are unable to navigate the "heightened language" in a way that is interesting, character-driven, and consistently intelligible. However, the production features enough compellingly theatrical moments to make it worth seeing. (I wonder, though, at what point a piece is so "adapted" as to no longer be the play the author wrote. Have I now actually seen Webster's The Duchess of Malfi?)

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