Writer: William Shakespeare, John Fletcher, &Lewis Theobold
Director: Andrew Borthwick-Leslie
Reviewer: Maridee Slater
Gender disguise, honor, madness, greedy fathers and conflicting brothers all collide in Letter of Marque’s production of Shakespeare, Fletcher, and Theobald’s Double Falsehood. While it is evident in the notes lining the playbill that there is still debate surrounding this authorship of this text, scholars have recently proven beyond reasonable doubt that it is Shakespeare’s co-creation with his occasional collaborator John Fletcher. Letter of Marque’s production could grow into something poignant and engaging, if it concentrates less on theory and more on story.
Valiant in their effort to engage the Brooklyn community in a dialogue about ending rape culture, Letter of Marque is so focused of the themes of rape in Double Falsehood that the comedy, while present, is diminished rather than well-employed. This leads to an unexpected, but not unpleasant, extra hour. Let’s forgive the extra time, however, as this production has the promise to grow into a powerhouse, if this company gives themselves permission to have fun and be surprised.
Director Andrew Borthwick-Leslie helms an incredibly talented team of performers, crafting the stage beautifully. He makes bold choices, though there is an element of safety to the spacial relationships, which is unfortunate. The text begs for action. Choices seem to stem from fear of intimacy fruiting in the same universe as sexual violence.
Poppy Liu (Violante, Peasant Girl) delivers a gut-punching canon ball performance. Plowing through a complex series of situations and emotional tidal waves, she is equal parts charming, intimidating, and devastating. She pushes herself, and we are grateful for it.
Adam Huff (Henriquez, The Duke’s Second Son) wakes the show up with a delightful serenade reminiscent of a young John Cusack in High Fidelity.
Montana Lampert Hoover (Leonora, Bernardo’s Daughter), wearing an outfit straight out of Pretty Little Liars—satisfying on so many levels—grounds her character with razor sharp focus, providing stability for her love interest, Julio, played by the admirably bold Zach Libresco.
Irondale is massive: open windows lead to the streets of Brooklyn, providing an underscore of sirens, dogs barking, cat fights, and shouts from passersby. The design embracs this place, where 1613, 1727, and 2016 exist simultaneously. Steven Brenman’s scenic and property design embrace the space, allowing transformations to appear organic, ancient, and meant-to-be. Claire Townsend’s costumes are an enticing mix of period and modern, creating an entirely new language of fashion. Lighting design (Joe Doran) evokes both the magic hour in nature and the magic of the theatrical medium. With a gesture, characters are able to transform the space in tandem with the lighting, making for moments of awe not soon forgotten.
Nolan Kennedy’s music direction fits this production like a glove. From Death Cab For Cutie to ghostly siren symphonies, the music is captivating. Vocal coach Corinna May ensures that every word is heard. In Kennedy and May’s hands, the company utilizes the auditory challenges of Irondale to their advantage.
Keep Letter of Marque on your radar; they have a lot of heart. Their efforts are commendable, their theatrical practice engaging, and their spirit contagious. Take a chance on these artists, they are headed in an exciting direction.
Runs until April 9th, 2016 | Photo: Theik Smith.