Theater for a New Audience delivers a bloody spectacle in Christopher Marlows’ Tamberlain, parts I and II. Playing at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center through December 21st, the show brings a different kind of red to the holiday season.
Tamberlaine is the story of a Scythian shepherd who rises to ever increasing influence through conquest and bloodshed. It is a tale of the insatiable lust and savagery of humanity. Director Michael Boyd holds nothing back in his desire to show us all the sins of man and more.
Boyd’s direction allows for a great amount of freedom from the actors. Often, this can lead to some discrepancy between modern and classic styles. This carries into set and props, placing a wooden classic chair for the past queen while giving the soon to be new queen a new, modern chair. He does, however, grant his actors the chance to shine at times and keeps the story moving forward with seamless scene changes (aside from the much needed 30 minute intermission to tidy up the blood)
Leading the cast is John Douglas Thompson in the title role of Tamberlaine. His presence on stage led the action with the same authority his character leads the story. Paul Lazar (Mycetes, Soldan of Egypt, Almeda the Jailor) endears himself to the audience early on with his jester like attitude, which he carries with him throughout the piece. In contrast is Steven Skybell (Meander), who’s clever timing adds a hint of comedy early on. A wonderful performance is given by Chukwudi Iwuji (Bajazeth/King of Trebizon). His pomp and conceit as the vain king are wonderfully delivered to the end. The rest of this ensemble cast, totaling 19, do a splendid job of filling in the many roles called for in Marlow’s epic work.
Worth special note is Arthur Solari on percussion. His performance in the one man pit is entertaining and extremely well thought out and balanced, adding atmosphere and background for most scenes in an unobtrusive but pervasive way.This piece may not be a date-night worthy event, but if you enjoy classic theater told with a small amount of nonchalance and a large amount of gore, this is the show for you.
Review By: Paul Morin
Photos By: Sara Krulwich