Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: The Revenger's Game

Revenge makes a man go mad. Just ask Hamlet. Or The Revenger’s Tragedy's Vindici. The Revenger's Tragedy by Thomas Middleton is a Jacobean classic appropriately about one man's mission of revenge against another who killed his beloved. In Spicy Witch's production, the dark drama, or comedy depending who you ask, gets a streamlined presentation that gets messy, literally.
Directed by Rebecca Weiss, The Revenger's Tragedy takes Middleton's piece and transports it to a seemingly timeless metallic world of vengeance where Vindici seeks to make The Duke and everyone he loves pay for his gruesome murder years earlier. With shifting tones and stories, everyone's in on the revenge game, though some mask it as vengeance. Putting an aura of modern in the language, director Weiss tasked her company to not only entertain but make these characters larger than life, pushing the piece into campy comedy at times. Where The Revenger's Comedy generally stands on the spectrum of tone has been widely debated. Weiss never quite solidified that in her production as moments that should likely not garner uproarious laughter did. Let's just say it, it was all the murders. Whether it was discomfort or because they were brazen acts of buffoonery, the laughs broke the momentum. When tackling the classics it's inevitable to take liberties. Weiss did just that. She played with gender bending with three prime players. But it only worked for two thirds. The one it didn't work with, a different narrative was formed. By turning Spurio, the bastard son of The Duke, into a girl. Spurio forces The Duchess into an affair, one that The Duke witnesses moments before his demise. In this Jacobean world, it pulled attention for all the wrong reasons. And once again, giggles and some perplexed audience member chatter.
Regardless of the little moments, Weiss did a fine job when it came to guiding Vindici. You knew his mission and his arc was clear. And that was in part thanks to David Federman's dominating performance. Despite having a Seth Rogan comedic quality to him, Federman carried the weight of the show on his shoulders as if he were Atlas. There was maniacal charm in his eyes. The tag team of Amelia Dudley and Alison Wien as Supervacuo and Ambitioso respectively made their presence known. Their comedic infusion was one of the welcome moments of lightness. But nothing beats their reactions to the head in a sack. Priceless. Decked out in gold like the Michael Jackson and Bubbles the monkey statue, Brandon O’Sullivan as Lussurioso was eccentric. But his eccentricities weren't always cohesive to character. His journey started off mild and went to wild without warning like a launch coaster.
Weiss’ creative team played with consistency to create a unifying design. It was all about the arousing metallic. For the most part, the continuity in the costumes and set were brilliant. Designed by Alexandra Rozansky and Caitlyn Murphy respectively, the pieces worked well. But Rozansky loses an immense amount of points for dressing Lussrioso in the “My Little Pony” robe. Sure, it was cute against the character’s pony obsession, but between the material and icon, the robe destroyed credibility. While you can’t see sound per se, the metal was present there too. And it was all in the tinny 50’s score. It was an intensely jarring feel. The music didn’t really inform the moments. The music wanted so desperately to be ominously scary. There just wasn’t a rhyme or reason for it. The lights by Yi-Chung Chen were striking. That is when you could see. Even with some board issues, there were a couple of side light units that blinded the audience. And it’s unfortunately unforgivable. When staging a production in an irregular seating format, someone needs to check each seat for the little things. The blood design by Megan McQueeney was a bloody mess in execution. Hiding and masking blood packs can be hard and the set up of the space is partially to blame. But nothing pulls you from a moment when you can see the pack stick out of an actor’s pocket.
Of the two plays in Spicy Witch Productions season, this is not the winner. The Revenger’s Tragedy is like a Shakespeare play. The concept will inform the success. With various liberties and ideas taking over, The Revenger’s Tragedy had a lot more than the blood stained floor to clean up.


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