Theatre Review

Marlowe's 'Edward II' a gender bender at Burbage

By DON FOWLER
Posted 1/30/20

Theatre Review By DON FOWLER Director Jeff Church, known for his innovative approach to theatre, has taken Christopher Marlowe's provocative historical play about the 14th century gay king and substituted female actors for male roles. And it works! There

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Theatre Review

Marlowe's 'Edward II' a gender bender at Burbage

Posted

Director Jeff Church, known for his innovative approach to theatre, has taken Christopher Marlowe’s provocative historical play about the 14th century gay king and substituted female actors for male roles. And it works!

There were very few good roles for women in Shakespeare’s and Marlowe’s plays, so Church has provided his audiences and actresses with a twist of sorts, following a modern Rhode Island trend to open up the stage to more young and mature female thespians.

Gabrielle McCauley stars as Edward II, the gay king who brings her lover, Piers Gaveston (Catia) into her realm, much to the dismay of her court, her enemies and the church.

The large cast of 17 actors, 14 of them women, has the opportunity to put themselves into roles that were written for men. Ironically, the three men spend most of the two-plus hours sitting silently.

Church uses the in-the-round space wisely, with a number of blackouts, entrances and exits aided by Jessica Winward’s effective lighting, Andrew Iacovelli’s set design and Abigail Dufresne’s dark costumes.

Like Shakespeare’s tragedies, there is much swordplay. The acting is intense, with lots of shouting, conniving, deceit and death. Blood is spilled, characters are beheaded, and mixed with all this is a lot of kissing.

Alison Russo as Mortimer is the perfect antagonist, never letting up in bringing Edward and Galveston down and conniving Queen Isabel (Valerie Westgate) to denounce her husband and banish him to the Towers to await her death. Quietly in the background is their son (Kelly Robertson) who has his shining moment at the tragic ending.

“Edward II” is a tough enough play to present with all of the scene changes, swordplay, multitude of actors and stilted language. Bravo to Church and his huge cast for giving a new perspective to the old chestnut.

“Edward II” is at Burbage Theatre in their new home at 59 Blackstone Ave. in Pawtucket, where it will run through February 15. Go online at burbagetheatre.org for tickets, directions and reservations.

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