To quote Cole Porter’s lyric in referring to Double Falsehood the newest arrival at the Classic Stage Company allegedly written by Shakespeare and John Fletcher staged in 1613 by Shakespeare’s Company The King’s Men called The History of Cardenio and then lost and then found (all three copies) and then adapted for the 18th Century by Lewis Theobald – “Is it the good turtle soup or merely the mock?”
There’s a good reason that Double Falsehood – an intellectual experiment – hasn’t been produced in all these years. It’s not a very good play whoever authored it. Shades of Shakespeare abound in bits and pieces of “Romeo and Juliet” “Hamlet” “Macbeth” “The Taming of the Shrew” et al. I lost count after the fake death in a nunnery by Leonora. But I’m getting far ahead of myself.
The production itself is beautifully staged by Brian Kulick. It is stylish and intriguing. The set, however, a back drop – a collection of hanging Persian carpets (Oana Botez-Ban who has also designed some fetching costumes) – reminded me of an off ramp exit on I-95 near Stamford Connecticut where they sell such items. Three large carpets are swished around by the actors in the first act and they thankfully disappear in the second when the action moves out of doors. But back to the play.
Good brother Roderick (an excellent Bryce Gill) tries to reign in his roguish, wild, womanizing, cad of a sibling Henriquez (a believable Slate Holmgren) after he rapes Violante (a most natural and winning Mackenzie Meehan) and then attempts to seduce Leonora (a beautiful Hayley Treider who tends to sign her lines which she later corrects) who is in love with Henriquez’s friend Julio (a sympathetic Clayton Apgar) and the daughter of Don Bernardo (a bellowing, over blown Jon Devries).
The Duke (a sedate Philip Goodwin) father of Roderick and Henriquez starts the play off in a somewhat incoherent way and I lost interest fifteen minutes after it began. But then something happens – the story begins – and we get involved in this convoluted saga. Perhaps it is also the admirable acting from most of the company that transcends the mediocre script that aids our involvement.
A letter is most important, somewhat like the handkerchief in Othello. And Violante, seeking revenge, dresses as a lad only to be found out and manhandled by a shepherd after singing a lovely song in Act II. Julio bares his manly chest and goes a bit mad, covered in mud and there is a version of a balcony scene without any memorable lines.
The two women are spirited and strong willed refusing to be at the mercy of men, refusing to meekly obey and are determined to get what they deserve which adds just the right modernity to the proceedings. When was this written?
Leonora refusing to adhere to the arranged marriage deal between the two fathers eventually wins back her Julio. And Violante gets her revenge on Enriquez.
All’s Well That Ends Well or is it Much Ado About Nothing? Only you can decide.
www.classicstage.org Through April 3rd.
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