'Tis Pity She's a Whore - Red Bull Theater at The Duke on 42nd Street - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by John Ford, Directed by Jesse Berger
Runs until May 16th, 2015
Creditors - Coal Mine Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by August Strindberg, Adapted by David Greig, Directed by Rae Ellen Bodie
Runs until May 17th, 2015
'Tis pity that even in 2015, while watching a 400 and 100 year old play, there's a realization that little progress in the underlying tones of misogynistic attitudes have changed. Despite how far females and the feminist movements have come, watching these old plays where revenge on a woman is at its crux, still seems horrifyingly familiar and relevant. Kudos to the scrappy theatre companies Red Bull Theater and Coal Mine Theatre for taking these old plays and revealing the hypocrisy in the societal set ups and expectations we have created. All in dramatic but entertaining and humorous productions with an overall wink that elevates these old dramas seem ageless and still relevant.
For a 400 year old play, the infamous John Ford play 'Tis Pity She's a Whore is still incredibly disturbing and somehow still relevant in its underlying message of the patriarchal system that lets misogyny make victims of women. Having just seen the play for the first time last year in a terrific production at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (and landing on my Best of 2014 list), it's quite an unravelling of plots that are instigated when a handsome young man Giovanni (a winning Matthew Amendt), twisting the words of Friar into an approval (an perfectly exasperated Christopher Innvar), confesses his love to his sister Annabella (an endearing and lovely Amelia Pedlow) who soon confesses her reciprocal love. While their passionate love begins to bloom, their father Signor Florio (Philip Goodwin) has three suitors for Annabella and thus sets the unravelling of true love, societal expectations and revenge and bloody murder when the men do not get their way.
The Red Bull Theater production, directed by a founding member Jesse Berger, keeps the pace as we are introduced to the multiple characters surrounding the tumultuous incestual affair while swiftly manoeuvring through the serious and solid tone that still manages to weave in a lot of surprising humour and a sly wink at its ridiculously crazy events. The only thing missing seemed to be a more overt condoning of the ancestral affair by Annabella's tutoress Putana which seems to lessen the later blow in dramatic twists, but Franchelle Stewart Dorn plays Putana with a lovely subtle nuance that helps push us to joining her in approving the taboo relationship.
A strong cast keeps the duelling undertones working symbiotically and includes a terrifically strong and firm Lord Soranzo (Clifton Duncan), his jilted ex out for revenge Hippolita (a fantastically sly Kelley Curran), Soranzo's servant Vasques (a droll Derek Smith), the second suitor Grimaldi (a great Tramell Tillman) and the hopeless Bergetto (a hilarious Ryan Garbado) and his servant Poggio (Ryan Farley) and the eventual love interest for Bergetto, Philotis (the beauty of innocence in Auden Thornton).
Meanwhile Rocco Sisto, in the small but crucial part of the overlord Cardinal, perfectly voices the final words and title of the play which cements the harsh reality of the societal set up that betrays its women that the play portrays (in its crazy, dark, deeply disturbing, yet wildly entertaining way)!
When a young, naive husband is given advice from a mysterious older man while at some seaside resort, the bright eyed love of Adolph begins to dim when he begins wondering if his wife Tekla is just using him and his social status and why she treats him more like her little brother instead of a husband. Tekla literally calls her husband "little brother" and refers to herself as the big sister. The mysterious man Gustav sets into motion a series of doubts which turns into arguments and darkening thoughts, in an ultimate tale of male revenge. While the plot twists are easy to see from afar, and the play sometimes works a little too hard setting up the obvious machinations, the fun in August Strindberg's play is watching it all play out and seeing how some men see themselves as "Creditors" to a woman's life.
What's interesting is that Tekla is a very modern thinking woman and Adolph was a gentle and giving man who let Tekla make her own decisions while catering to her whims and desires and it worked in a forward thinking understanding. That is until the interloper meets Adolph. It's an intense but humorous play and allows for some great interplay between two-thirds of the three person cast. With Adolph and Gustav, then Adolph and Tekla and finally Tekla and Gustav hashing things out.
In Coal Mine Theatre's intimate and effective production directed by Rae Ellen Bodie, the play will only work with actors that balance the piece out in it's perfectly built trifecta and Noah Reid, Liisa Repo-Martell and Hardee T. Lineham are superb in the ever shifting weight of the piece.
Noah Reid, with his cherubic innocent face, is perfectly cast as the innocently coaxed husband who manages to slowly build a spine and anger at being played by his own wife. While Reid may feel slightly too modern for this 100 year old piece, and his crippled walk may not be the most convincing, emotionally he balances Adolph's changing heart in a stirring and simmering performance. Lissa Repo-Martell, whose intense eyes and hearty laugh easily conveys Tekla's free-spirited but feisty nature is exactly what is needed to convincingly portray Tekla's story and questioned emotions. Meanwhile, Hardee T. Lineham gives Gustav the right weight and mysterious nature that all makes sense as the plot reveals itself.
This is the third play in Coal Mine's inaugural season and there has been a lot of buzz and critical acclaim for their first two productions (Bull and The Motherfucker with the Hat) and I'm very sorry I missed them. However I am excited that this new theatre company (lead by Ted Dykstra and Diana Bentley) has emerged in the east end on the Danforth (below the Magic Oven Pizza) and look forward to its future developments!
'Tis Pity She's a Whore photos by Richard Termine
Creditors photos by Michael Cooper Photographic
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com
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