Writing in 1587 and 1588, Christopher Marlowe may have known the exigencies of Islamic extremism better than many world leaders today. His Tamburlaine, Parts 1 and 2, now playing at Theatre for a New Audience, tells of a ruthless path to power, throughout the Mideast and beyond. Lean and with blinders—he can only see his next conquest–John Douglas Thompson, plays the king’s rise, starting from a shepherd, on the move and without affectation, only stubble. Director Michael Boyd, who has edited the works down to Hollywood blockbuster speed—finds no calm in this 3.5-hour whirlwind. His staging is aerodynamically alive, and he makes use of the entire theatre, which at points, includes the audience itself. The effect is free-flowing, not schematic, and post-modern and industrial, not Elizabethan—Boyd’s minimal, up-to-the minute technique–seen through clear, plastic strips–also allows the ongoing violence to be bearable.
Audience members will be fascinated by the use of blood on the stage, even if some characters appear to be dying more than once. Dripping and pouring like wine, the substance, which theatremakers will want to know about–if they don’t already–apparently congeals almost immediately–either that, or the creators have concocted some other form of stage wizardry. A friend hoped to see more passion in the relationship between Tamburlaine and his stolen Egyptian wife, Zenocrate (Merritt Janson), but, Thompson really only cares about domination, world domination (Othello reads, more or less, like a Renaissance version of On the Town compared to this).
Not shown in New York in 58 years, Tamburlaine doesn’t need to be consigned to the dustbins of history anymore—the geography mentioned in the play (Syria, Turkey, Arabia, Egypt) is as fresh as today’s front pages. The play also fulfills the promise of classical theatre in the city, as well as the new Polonsky Shakespeare Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn (just down the street from BAM, around the corner from the Harvey Theatre, and easily accessible from trains at Nevins Street). There have been some near misses in the last year at the venue, but this production rules.
Featuring: Oberon K.A. Adjepong, Carlo Alban, Matthew Amendt, Nilanjana Bose, Patrice Johnson Chevannes, Vasile Flutur, Caroline Hewitt, Andrew Hovelson, Zachary Infante, Chukwudi Iwuji, Merritt Janson, Paul Lazar, Tom O’Keefe, Saxon Palmer, Ian Saint-Germain, Steven Skybell, Keith Randolph Smith, John Douglas Thompson, James Udom
Edited and directed by Michael Boyd
Press Representative: The Bruce Cohen Group, Ltd.
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