|The renovated Modern Theatre at Suffolk University.|
Just btw, I'm not one of those critics who like to pretend the other Elizabethans and Jacobeans are nearly in Shakespeare's league - even though Marlowe, Jonson and Webster are always of some interest, and have their respective brilliances, I've never seen a production of any of them that really worked. (And Middleton is probably in the tier below them.) To be fair, a lot of Shakespeare productions don't work, either! But it always seems what's of most interest about Shakespeare's peers is their shared sense of decay and despair, even disgust; they all revel in humiliation and cruelty; the Bard seems to float above them like some kind of civilizing, timeless dream. (This sense of cynical darkness may be why the Jacobean genre was the only one the A.R.T. ever seemed really suited to, and why theatres like New York's Red Bull have made successes of these period pieces by tricking them up with downtown-dungeon paraphernalia that would have thrilled SNL's Stefon.)
But alas, the Actors' Shakespeare Project isn't really into dungeon culture, so Women Beware Women came off as black comedy (as Jacobean "tragedies," and Middleton in particular, often do). Indeed, the climactic Saw-style death-off (by molten gold, trap door, poisoned arrow, etc.) was met with gales of happy laughter from the enthusiastic crowd. But then the ASP cast had played the text mostly for laughs from the top; comedy is this troupe's forte, after all, and there were fun turns to savor here from Bill Barclay and particularly John Greene. I think there's a deeper, more lushly rotten tone you could achieve with the material, but that would probably require an imaginative physical realization of the text.
|John Lee Beatty (with paint) and Modern artistic director Marilyn Plotkins.|