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Arden of Faversham
a Drama
by Anonymous & William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Resurgens Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 5180

SHOWING : November 13, 2017 - November 17, 2017



Alice Arden has a problem. She’s fallen hard for a handsome fellow with a promising future. But he’s not her husband. What’s an early modern woman to do? When “Love is a god, and marriage is but words,” there’s only one answer — hire some hit men, of course! Resurgens Theatre Company returns to the Shakespeare Tavern this November with the earliest “true crime” drama to appear on the English stage, "Arden of Faversham." Directed by Dr. Brent Griffin, our “original practices” production will not only provide Atlanta audiences with their first opportunity to experience this pioneering work of Elizabethan domestic tragedy, but also their first chance to hear Shakespeare’s beginnings as a collaborative playwright and theatre practitioner.

Director Brent Griffin
Mayor of Faversham Eric Brooks
Arden Robert Bryan Davis
Black Will Brent Griffin
Alice Sims Lamason
Mosby Stuart McDaniel
Greene Tamil Periasamy
Michael Matthew Trautwein
Shakebag Jim Wall
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True Crime
by playgoer
Friday, November 17, 2017
"Arden of Faversham" is perhaps the first true crime drama, based on a 1551 murder in which an unfaithful wife and her lover conspired to have her husband killed. The play was written 40 years later, probably with William Shakespeare participating as one of the writers.

In Resurgens’ production, with a script edited by Brent Griffin, based on the 1592 quarto edition, we get right down to business. We see the virtuous Arden (Robert Bryan Davis) and his friend Franklin (Joseph Kelly) discussing Arden’s wife Alice (Sims Lamason) and the groomsman Mosby (Stuart McDaniel) with whom she is inordinately friendly. The illicit lovers and Greene (Tamil Periasamy), whose lands were deeded to Arden by an act of the king, all want him dead. Michael (Matthew Trautwein), Arden’s servant, is in love with Mosby’s sister (Mary Abbott), and is promised to her by the lovers if he assists in a plot to murder Arden. Two ruffians, Black Will (Brent Griffin) and Shakebag (Jim Wall) are hired to carry out the killing.

The two main characteristics of the play are pretense and black comedy. Alice pretends her kisses are just a ploy to test the loyalty of her husband or lover (depending on who sees her kissing whom), and Mosby harbors secret plans to take over all of Arden’s property. The comedy comes from the ruffians’ botched attempts to kill Arden, which result in pratfalls as they make attempt after attempt, following Arden from Faversham to London and back. When the murder finally succeeds, it’s only with the participation of Alice and Mosby. The late arrival of the Mayor (Eric Brooks, although he made a premature entrance on opening night) resolves the plot with all the evil-doers punished.

Lighting is a steady candle glow, as called for by the original practices of the company, and the set is the standard New Shakespeare Tavern set-up, with a couple of sets of stairs truncated to allow access to doors. One modern touch is the use of stage fog, which is used to fine effect, snaking out across the floor to conceal an open trapdoor into which the ruffians fall on one of their murder attempts. Another modern touch is Matthew Trautwein’s original music, but it is performed in period style, with a delightful comic interlude using recorder, oboe, and tambour to punctuate a verse.

One aspect of original practice missing in this production is vocal projection. While dialogue is usually understandable, volume in intimate scenes sometimes falls to a near-whisper. Costumes, by Catherine Thomas and Anné Carole Butler, give a true feel for the period, although the actors tend not to have legs of their knickers pulled to an even length on both legs. Props are good, and Tamil Periasamy’s fight choreography is effective.

Brent Griffin’s blocking keeps the actors visible most of the time, although a couple of forays into the audience late in the two-hour running time may hide them from front-row audience members. His direction gives a nice flow to the show, but the ruffians aren’t broadly comic enough for my taste.

Performances are good, although Eric Brooks was not off book on opening night and it appeared that Matthew Trautwein was hesitating on his lines more than the nervousness of his character would warrant. Tamil Periasamy is as well-spoken as ever, and Sims Lamason certainly captures the qualities of an attractive female who can twist men around her little finger. Robert Bryan Davis is too stolid a presence to be totally believable as the passive victim of cuckoldry, and Stuart McDaniel is not quite passionate enough to score as the lover. This play definitively belongs to the female lead, and Ms. Lamason makes every moment count.

"Arden of Faversham" is easier to follow than many of Shakespeare’s works (likely due in part to Mr. Griffin’s editing), although the frequent pretenses tend to act as a form of misdirection. The feeling is Elizabethan, but more of the pulp fiction variety than of Shakespearean poetry. A scene between Alice and Mosby in the middle of the play, though, suddenly rings with the cadences of Shakespeare’s voice. The play may not be Shakespeare’s alone, but it’s a worthy production making its Atlanta debut several centuries after it was written. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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