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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Edward II

Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company is opening its second theater space, the glass-enclosed Sidney Harman Hall, with a repertory of two plays by Shakespeare contemporary Christopher Marlowe. The company's production of Edward II is sumptuous and well spoken, if occasionally ponderous.

While Edward II was first performed in 1592, it was not produced in England between 1660, when the Restoration reopened the theaters that had been closed by the Puritans, and the early 20th century because of the passionate central relationship between the English king (Wallace Acton) and his favorite, Piers Gaveston (Vayu O'Donnell). However, the play is about much more than love between men: it concerns the responsibilities of a monarch to himself, his family, and his country.

Director Gale Edwards had the inspired idea of setting the tragedy around the end of World War I, not too long before (in real life) another English king named Edward abdicated the throne for the sake of an unsuitable love. This also allows some clever choices in the design, specifically the surrealistic, possibly Picasso-inspired costumes (designed by Murell Horton) worn by the performers Gaveston hires to entertain the king.

Acton is a dynamic Edward as he places his devotion to Gaveston above his other duties, yet simultaneously tries to placate his court and his (understandably) distraught queen, Isabella (Deanne Lorette). As Gaveston, O'Donnell ably conveys the man's two sides: he truly loves Edward, but he also enjoys the power and influence he gets from their connection, and he especially relishes showing off his prominence to nobles who despise him less for being a male lover and more for not being a member of their social class.

Lorette has less to do as the unfortunate queen, but she embodies the character well and with dignity. Andrew Long shows the progression of the rival nobleman Mortimer from impotent antagonist to furious revolutionary. Noteworthy cameo performances come from Amy Kim Waschke as Edward's niece, who becomes a pawn in the battle over Gaveston; Kurt Uy as an ambitious tutor; and James Konicek as an assassin.

Karl Lundeberg composed the intense music, which adds to the cinematic feel of the performance created by Lee Savage's ever-shifting scenic design and Mark McCullough's shafts of light.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Edward II
October 27th January 6th, in repertory with Tamburlaine
By Christopher Marlowe

Cast:
Edward II, king of England: Wallace Acton
Piers Gaveston, his favorite: Vayu O'Donnell
Isabella, queen of England: Deanne Lorette
Mortimer, a nobleman: Andrew Long
Edmund of Kent, brother to Edward II: Jay Whittaker
Lancaster, a nobleman: Jonathan Earl Peck
Warwick, a nobleman: David McCann
Pembroke, a nobleman: James Denvil
Archbishop of Canterbury: Scott Jaeck
Spencer, Gaveston's servant, later in service to the king: Danyon Davis
Margaret de Clare, a noblewoman, niece of the king: Amy Kim Waschke
Baldock, Margaret's tutor, later in service to the king: Kurt Uy
Arundel, a nobleman loyal to the king: Terence Archie
Young Prince Edward, heir to the throne, later Edward III: Michael Bunting
Edward III: Chris Crawford
Bishop of Coventry/An Abbott: John Lescault
Lightborn, a professional assassin: James Konicek
Spencer Senior, Spencer's father, loyal to the king/First Lord: David Emerson Toney
Rice ap Howell, officer to the mayor of Bristol/Second Lord: Craig Wallace
Sir John Hainault, a Belgian nobleman, ally to Isabella and Mortimer: Floyd King
Leicester, a nobleman loyal to the king: Robert Jason Jackson
Mortimer Senior, a nobleman, uncle to Mortimer: David Sabin
Baroness, a noblewoman: Franchelle Stewart Dorn
Matrevis, a lord in service to Mortimer: Christopher Marino
Gurney, a lord in service to Mortimer: Blake DeLong
Beaumont, a young nobleman in service to the king: Adriano Gatto
Levune, a French nobleman, loyal to the king: Jefferson A. Russell
James, Pembroke's young captain at arms: JJ Area
Captain to Mortimer: Kenric Green

Ensemble: Abe Cruz, Austin Herzing, Anthony Jackson, Jair Kamperveen, Kaitlin Manning, Kaytie Morris, Kevin Pierson, Majed Sayess Directed by Gale Edwards

Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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