Double Falsehood (2016 Off-Broadway)
ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
BOOKS and CDs
See links at top of our Main Page
LETTERS TO EDITOR
FILM & TV
A CurtainUp Review
Borthwick-Leslie truly beards the lion here. According to his program note, he hasn't tried to improve or amend Theobald's original text but simply lets it stand on its own theatrical merits. So what you get is an unvarnished look at Theobald's 18th century work with New York stage legs.
This fantastical tale is set in the province of Andalusia and echoes many themes and devices that Shakespeare often used: love and betrayal, patriarchal authority, sex and violence, letter writing, cross-dressing, and a pastoral subplot. The plot is sweeping with episodes that run the gamut from romantic (young people falling in love) to revolting (Henriquez's rape of the peasant girl Violante). And, oh yes. The title is a reference to the wayward Henriquez who falsely loves both Violante and Leonora and betrays the trust of his family and friends.
The nine-member ensemble look like they are having a terrific time. Though the play runs over 2 1/2 hours, their collective energy never flags. The esprit de corps, however, doesn't completely smooth over the performers' different acting styles. While the seasoned actors on board more than carry their roles, the less experienced actors sometimes fall short.
The stand-out in the cast is Poppy Liu who performs Violante. Liu inhabits the peasant girl early on with much conviction and sensitivity, and in later scenes a gutsiness that complements her male guise.
Several others in the ensemble deserve special notice: Ariel Estrada as Don Bernardo, Wellan H. Scripps, as Roderick, Tom Giordano as Camillo, and Scarlet Maressa Rivera, doubling as the Citizen and Gerald. They all riseto their dramatic moment and sturdily deliver.
Steven Brenman's set is inventive and intelligently uses Irondale's spacious performing area. He has designed faux archways and building facades for the court and village scenes, and resourcefully creates a pastoral world via hand-held props that simulate foliage. Joe Doran's lighting makes the performers are readily visible as they traverse the stage. Claire Townsends' period costumes are a nice mix of silken court outfits for the nobles and more rag-tag garb for the peasant folk.
A word on the play's authenticity. There are still Doubting Thomases who refuse to recognize Double Falsehood as a genuine Shakespeare work, pointing to its lack of memorable poetry as well as its unwieldy storyline. But these detractors had to pause in their arguments when Arden Shakespeare published Theobald's play in March 2010. The "orphan" play gained instant literary weight—followed by a flurry of stage productions, including the Classic Stage Company's in 2011 reviewed by Curtainup with Theobald listed as adapter ( Review).
Say what you will about Double Falsehood it passes muster as helmed by Borthwick-Leslie at the Irondale Center. it gives New Yorkers another chance see the Bard's Cardenio play, with a little help from playwright Theobald.