Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Malcontent by John Marston

Benjamin Curns in The Malcontent. Photo by Tommy Thompson.
We attended the second "pay what you will" performance of John Marston's "The Malcontent" at the Blackfriars Playhouse. I read the play in anticipation of seeing it and really enjoyed it. It's classed a revenge tragedy but it seems more of a revenge comedy. Benjamin Curns stars as Malevole/Duke Altofronto, who was overthrown and banished thanks to the machinations of John Harrell's Mendoza. Harrell, who is so good you sometimes take him for granted, is outstanding as the conniving minion/lover of Aurelia played by the fabulous Sarah Fallon. Jeremy West is fantastic as Duke Pietro who takes over after Altofronto is banished. Altofronto disguises himself as Malevole and schemes on how to take back power. The plot is reminiscent of "Measure for Measure" with some "Hamlet" thrown in. Malevole provides a running commentary on the sorry state of the Genoan Dukedom and the many minions, bawds, and adulterers that parade through the stage. Curns, as always, is flawless as a performer. The chemistry between he and Harrell is at its peak in this play. They always play well off of each other, particularly when Harrell is playing a sneak. Fallon is also wonderful in this type of role. She's great when she plays a bad girl. Another standout performer is Paul Jannise as the overblown Bilioso. I was really looking forward to seeing this performance after reading the play. His interactions with Malevole are priceless. On top of it all, Jannise's costume is amazing. Allison Glenzer, playing yet another old trollop, is fantastic as the bawdy, lascivious Maquerelle (get it, Mackerel), Jeremiah Davis makes for a pretty bearded girl as Emilia, and Patrick Midgley's Ferneze is a sight to behold. Tyler Moss plays Bilioso's fool, Passarello and turns in a great performance in that role and as Equato. He's equally impressive in the musical interlude dancing away and moonwalking on the mash-up Nirvana/Michael Jackson "Smells Like Billie Jean." Speaking of music, there are some fantastic musical performances in this production including covers of "Overkill" by Men at Work, "Go to Sleep" by Radiohead, "And It Spread" by The Avett Brothers, and "No Regrets" by Forest Sun. Also, be sure to look for the pre-show/Induction. Poor Daniel Burrows is pestered by an audience member (John Harrell) who finally takes to the stage and is joined by another audience member (Chris Johnston) as well as other cast members. The Malcontent is a fabulous play, both funny and exceedingly nasty with lots of delicious double entendres and sexual overtones. Make sure you check it out!

The Actors Renaissance Season continues with "Look About You" by anonymous, a play based on the Robin Hood story. From what I've read so far (and that is no easy task, getting a hold of the text that is), it will be wonderful.

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