Wednesday, November 16, 2011

MURDERING MARLOWE • West End Players Guild

Charles Marowitz's fictional account of a rivalry between two real-life figures, playwrights Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, is an intriguing, slick little play, and under Robert A. Mitchell's wonderfully paced direction, completely entertaining.  I'm just gonna say right now you should get a ticket.

All that is known about Marlowe's death in May 1593 is that he was stabbed in the eye following an argument over a bill.  Marowitz takes this nugget and weaves a tale that seems incredibly plausible.

In 16th century London, Christopher "Kit" Marlowe (John Wolbers) is all the rage.  His works dominate Elizabethan theatre, although he's considered by many to be a canker on the English landscape due to his blasphemy, drinking, and his willingness to engage with just about anything with an orifice.

Michael B. Perkins (Shakespeare)
and Jim Hurley (Philip Henslow).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Meanwhile, Shakespeare (Michael B. Perkins) is struggling to make a living with his writing and constantly nagged by his wife Anne about the family's dire financial situation.  Shakespeare is jealous as hell of Marlowe and his literary success.  Even the local theatre manager Philip Henslow (Jim Hurley) advises Shakespeare that his works were no match for Marlowe's, and that he could maybe punch up a few of his plays with a little more blood and sex.  At one point, he suggests that THE COMEDY OF ERRORS be re-worked into THE COMEDY OF EROS -- a title that would "draw the town!".  You know… sex always sells.  Shakespeare only seems to find solace in the arms of his lover, Emilia Lanier (Maggie Murphy), who also knows Marlowe ("knows" in the biblical sense).

Because of Marlowe's perceived "affronts to God and decent Christians", he draws the attention of the English government, so Shakespeare jumps on this opportunity to convince those around him that Marlowe should be dealt with.  He hires Robert Poley (David Wassilak) and Ingram Frizer (Todd Moore) to murder him -- conveniently ridding himself of an eminent rival.

David Wassilak (Robert Poley),
John Wolbers (Christopher Marlowe)
and Todd Moore (Ingram Frizer).  Photo credit: John Lamb

There are winning performances all the way around in this one.  John Wolbers is a wonderfully tawdry and talented Christopher Marlowe, and Michael B. Perkins as Shakespeare is aptly glowering and grim.  Jim Hurley as the theatre manager has some of the best lines, and his interrogation scene along with Reynard Fox as the investigator is worth the price of admission.  Laura Singleton was a bitter and angry Anne Hathaway and Maggie Murphy as Emilia Lanier was seductive and self-assured.  Their scenes together are very powerful.  The costumes by Teresa Doggett were beautiful, and the set (Nic Uhlmansiek) was simple with just a few pieces of furniture.  The lighting (Renee Sevier-Monsey) was low and foreboding, and I really liked the mood of the pre-show music.

MURDERING MARLOWE is a great show that sadly has just one more weekend left, so I pray thee -- go see it!

Laura Singleton (Anne Hathaway)
and Maggie Murphy (Emilia Lanier).
Photo credit: John Lamb

Written by Charles Marowitz
Directed by Robert A. Mitchell
Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Blvd.
through November 20 | tickets: $15 - $20
Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm

Shakespeare (Michael B. Perkins), Anne Hathaway (Laura Singleton), Christopher Marlowe (John Wolbers), Emilia Lanier (Maggie Murphy), Robert Poley (David Wassilak), Philip Henslow (Jim Hurley), Henry Maunder (Reynard Fox) and Ingram Frizer (Todd Moore).

Costume design by Teresa Doggett; scenic design by Nic Uhlmansiek; lighting design by Renee Sevier-Monsey; sound design by Michael B. Perkins; stage manager, Elizabeth Henning.

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