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A CurtainUp Review
'Tis a Pity She's a Whore

We shall have time/To talk at large of all; but never yet/Incest and murder have so strangely met./Of one so young, so rich in nature's store,/Who could not say, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. .— Cardinal
 Tis a Pity
Amelia Pedlow, Franchelle Stewart Dorn (rear), and Matthew Amendt (Photo: Richard Termine)
John Ford's romantic tragedy of murder, incest, and revenge returns to New York after a 50-year hiatus. It's getting a pitch-perfect revival at the Duke Theatre on 42nd Street by Red Bull's Artistic Director Jesse Berger.

Set in Parma, the plot revolves around siblings Giovanni and Isabella who fall passionately in love. Their incestuous love becomes more complicated when Isabella is persuaded by her father to marry the rich Lord Soranzo, to ensurine her respectability and social position in Parma. But no sooner married, Isabella learns she is pregnant, and her new husband Soranzo demands to know the unborn child's father. A rocky start to a marriage — and it grows worse as the scenes unfold.

The acting is first rate. Many actors in the 14-member ensemble will be familiar from former Red Bull productions or recent Broadway and Off Broadway shows. Amelia Pedlow takes on the star-crossed lover Annabella, with Matthew Amendt playing as brother Giovanni. Both turn in sizzling hot performances. Both are in the buff in their first bedroom scene, so clearly this new staging is far removed from the buttoned-up world of the Puritans and closer to the Age of Aquarius.

If Pedlow and Amendt are the double sparks that ignite this production, the supporting actors keep it glowing brightly. Franchelle Stewart Dorn performs Annabella's outspoken servant Putana with a feisty spirit. Clifton Duncan infuses his Soranzo with pure rage. Kelley Curran, as Soranzo's former mistress Hippolyta, is the perfect femme fatale. Derek Smith embodies villainy as Soranzo's Spanish servant. Rocco Sisto is well-cast as a pious Cardinal who firmly holds the moral compass. Philip Goodwin as Signor Florio and Everett Quinton as Signor Donado complete this crackerjack cast!

Red Bull's artistic director proves that 'Tis Pity can be reimagined and staged for a contemporary audience without losing its pulsing heart. In a recently posted online interview he said that he has been yearning to mount Ford's masterpiece since the company's founding in 2003.

The production values are all in synch. David M. Barber's elegant European-styled set, complete with a balcony, allows Annabella and other characters, to make their entrances and exits during pivotal scenes. Peter Wests' soft lighting design casts a romantic mood and atmosphere over the stage, and Sara Jean Tosetti's period costumes could pass muster as the haute couture of the Renaissance.

Ford (c. 1586 - c. 1639) is “one of the last of the major English Renaissance dramatists. It's no accident that his 'Tis Pity is a perverse retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Before the play's close, audience members will likely be astonished at how Ford has appropriated the Bard's and other English Renaissance playwrights' works. Whether it's Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, or Tamburlaine, Ford steeped himself in his great predecessors works, tapping into their genius to create his own theatrical experiments.

What sets Ford apart though, is his originality in dealing with taboo subjects like incest and all the chaos it can breed. Anybody who sees this current staging of 'Tis Pity will at times feel unsure as to whether to laugh or cry at its bizarre events. Either way, those who come, will be glad they did.

'Tis Pity She's A Whore
Written by John Ford
Directed by Jesse Berger
Cast: Matthew Amendt (Giovanni), Kelley Curran (Hippolita), Franchelle Stewart Dorn (Putana), Ryan Farley (Poggio), Ryan Garbayo (Bergetto), Philip Goodwin (Signor Florio), Christopher Innvar (Friar Bonaventura), Amelia Pedlow (Annabella), Everett Quinton (Signor Donado), Rocco Sisto (Cardinal), Derek Smith (Vasques), Auden Thornton (Philotis), Tramell Tillmann (Grimaldi), and Marc Vietor (Richardetto).
Sets: David M. Barber
Costumes: Sara Jean Tosetti
Sound: John D. Ivy
Lighting: Peter West
Stage Manager: April Ann Kline
Composer: Adam Wernick
Fight Directors: Rick Sordelet and Christian Kelly-Sordelet
The Duke at 42nd Street. at 229 W 42 St. (between 7th & 8th Avenues). Tickets: $40-$80, 646/223-3010
From 4/14/15; opening 4/26/15; closing 5/16/15.
Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 7:30, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8pm, with matinees Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 3pm. No matinee Sunday April 26th.
Running time: approximately 2 hours; 20 minutes with one intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 4/25/15  
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