By David Walters
It’s an Elizabethan version of a true-crime story i.e. Law and Order or 20/20, where the devoted husband gets it by the cheating wife who did it in the dining room with the knife.
The story goes that the play Arden of Faversham could have been written by Shakespeare. Or Christopher Marlow. Or Thomas Kyd. Or Thomas Watson. Or some combination of the above as there are indications of each of their styles throughout the play. This is a new adaptation of the piece by Jeffrey Hatcher and Kathryn Walat.
It is a tale told about an actual event that was a big story during its time, 1551 (the play was written about 40 years later). Alice Arden (Cara Ricketts), the wife of Thomas Arden (Thomas Jay Ryan), a successful businessman, conspires with her lover, Mosby (Tony Roach) , to off hubby in order to inherit his wealth and property and leave room for their love to prosper. They conspire with a bunch of ne’er-do-wells, a disgruntled neighbor, Thomas’ personal servant, two ruffians, and a painter, to all make a go of it. Everyone fails miserably at their individual attempts, and it isn’t until Alice takes the matter into her own hands (figuratively and physically) is she able to dispatch with her espoused. All the miscreants are caught and either hanged or burned for their misdeed (there’s a lovely postscript that ends the play informing us of their ill-wrought conclusions).
The theme of the play is that feeling called love that we all can get possessed by that can override our sensibilities, (“Love is God, and marriage is but words,” Mistress Alice Arden), This unbridled passion builds blindness to truth, allowing characters to hear only what they want to hear and ultimately falling into distrust of all (“Tis fearful sleeping in a serpent’s bed,” Mosby says at one point about Alice). It’s a difficult play to act as the feelings, at times, fling the actors up to the rafters and moments later smash them center stage in plain view. What’s unique about this play is the female lead/antagonist who the story is really all about. That is not a normal Elizabethan construct.
The cast does a good job as a whole to try and convey the story and have some fun while doing it, some busting their butts, but there were a lot of missed chances. The production tried to be too many things to too many different people and thus came off not as good as it could have been, almost as if was done by committee. This is heightened drama, operatic in tone (an opera has been written about it), with language to match and calls for it not to be played so straight on the whole. There is historic relevance to the play, and for that reason alone I urge you to see it as it doesn’t often find itself a stage.
Scene designers Christopher and Justin Swader provide a fabulous lodge setting with fireplace and many exits and entrances that were not fully utilized. It doubles and triples, with the help of lighting designer Reza Behjat, as a street and misty river setting. Loved the boat!
RED BULL THEATER presents Arden of Faversham
Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and Kathryn Walat and Directed by Jesse Berger
Featuring Cara Ricketts as Alice, Thomas Jay Ryan as her husband Arden, and Tony Roach as her lover Mosby, and joined by Veronica Falcón, Zachary Fine; Emma Geer, Joshua David Robinson. Thom Sesma, David Ryan Smith, and Haynes Thigpen.
Scenic design by Christoper and Justin Swader, Costume design Mika Eubanks, Lighting design Reza Behjat, Sound design Nina Field and Greg Pliska, Rick Sordelet was the fight director.
This strictly limited four-week engagement at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street between Bleecker and Hudson Streets) will continue through Saturday April 1st only.
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.