Friday, May 6, 2011

review - The Malcontent

The Malcontent
by John Marston
directed by Elizabeth Swain
Antaeus Theatre Company
through June 19

Antaeus' quest for the ultimate in classic plays has led to a rare production of John Marston's satire The Malcontent, which, despite an intense, almost insurmountable language barrier, offers a timeless and humorous glimpse at the hypocrisy of mankind, especially as it applies to the manipulation of the political machine. It is 1603 but it might as well be 2011 as adultery and greed for money and power remain man's top priorities. This is a production that is first and foremost stunning to look at but it does have its drawbacks. The flow of Act I is slowed by a barrage of unfamiliar dialectal terms, but if you're willing to hang in there, Act II pays off big time with an elegant sense of fun.

It's always fun to see a villain at his finest hour plotting his revenge and winning at every turn until... Such is the case with Mendoza (Ramon DeOCampo) a maliciously ambitious servant of the usurping Duke Pietro ( Bill Brochtrup) who has seized control of Genoa and banished Altofront (Bo Foxworth), the former Duke and emprisoned his wife the Duchess Maria (Ann Noble). Whilst Mendoza schemes to separate the weak Pietro and his Duchess wife Aurelia (Jules Willcox) by falsely accusing her of adultery with Ferneze (Adam Meyer) and attempting to prove it, Altofront disguises himself as Malevole, the malcontent of the title and plots to undo all that Mendoza has ordained. Only one servant Celso (Joe Holt) is aware of Malevole's true identity, thus showing him allegiance and feigning loyalty to Mendoza, whom eventually he publicly betrays. All of the servants swap loyalties as quickly and easily as they change their stockings, as corruption runs amuck.

Under Swain's smooth direction, the players* give equally excellent performances with Foxworth and DeOCampo both superb. Lynn Milgrim as Maquerelle, a former courtesan and pandress, is a joy to watch as is John Achorn as Bilioso the deceptively fumbling old marshal. Noble is a stunner in her brief scenes as Maria, so beautiful and regal in posture and delivery. DeOCampo is particularly engaging as he enters the audience seducing various women, then abruptly changing tones to defame their lack of virtue. Milgrim also has some brilliant moments as she hails youth and beauty peddling her aphrodisiac. What truisms still exist as "Women rail against bad clothes and old age" and as one official proclaims "Better to stand with wrong than fall with right". Ah, governments will always represent wickedness extreme!

A. Jeffrey Schoenberg's beautiful costumes and Tom Buderwitz' incredibly simplistic set in wood are treats to the eye, helping to make this a sumptuous production. Even with a slow and complex beginning due to the aforementioned language and heavy plot constraints, the play finds its true sense of justice and evens out with greater levity by the finale. Lovely original  period music by Peter Bayne and choreography by Heather Allyn also add fine brush strokes to a rich canvas.
4 out of 5 stars
* As in all Antaeus productions, the play is double cast. These are the Cuckolds; the alternate cast are the Wittols (or compliant Cuckolds). Check the following website for dates of performance of each ensemble:

No comments:

Post a Comment