The Spanish Tragedy – Drink the Haterade
The Spanish Tragedy, Photo Credit: Joshua McKerrow
A REVIEW BY THE BAD ORACLE
I need to start this review off with a caveat: I am breaking my own rules. The reason this is so late is because I dithered around about writing it at all. If you read my disclaimer (it’s above, I probably get more e-mails about how much people hate that I include it on every post than any other type of e-mail combined, my response is always LEARN HOW TO SCROLL) you see that I’ve promised not to review shows that my relatives are in. Well, I tried, but both of my other reviewers were swallowed up with life and work commitments so that left little old me. Usually, in this case, we’d just skip it, but it feels shitty not to review this show, particularly. Mobtown Players will, I hear, be soldiering on in some form, but, as everyone already knows, they have lost their space due to flooding and rent hikes. That means that this is the end of something, right here. The end of Mobtown as we knew it and the beginning of something else, maybe. So, I felt that this show needed to be marked on this blog. Mobtown has been such a critical and important part of the Baltimore small theater scene. They have given countless new works a try, they have bled and shed for us, they have produced quality productions that I have enjoyed going to for years. There is someone in the show that I have a family connection to. I’m saying that right now so that we are clear. I’ve tried not to let that sway my review, but there it is. Don’t read it if it bothers you, that’s all I can say. End of caveat. The Spanish Tragedy is an absolute hoot and director Josh McKerrow gets the joke. It’s violent, it’s vicious, it’s so fucking great. To make it work, though, you can’t camp it up. You have to leave it exactly as it is, you have to play it straight. And he does, blessedly. I mean, when one of your characters is a personification of Revenge (played here by Shelby Monroe, a teenage girl, LOVEIT) you know what you’ve got on your hands. I had more fun sitting through this than I have had at the dozens of Shakespearean plays I’ve seen over the past couple of years, even though, and maybe because, it’s not technically as good. Kyd is no Billy. The language isn’t as nice, the story not as intricate. But it’s more fun. It’s the reason you flip over to Attack of the Killer Tomatoes even if Schindler’s List is on. Our fair play opens with the Hamlet-esque Ghost of Don Andrea (Megan Farber), a knight who has recently been killed by Balthazar (Matthew Purpora), a Portuguese prince. Andrea is accompanied by his pet, Revenge (who hangs around throughout the play, giggling, which gave me the creeps in all the right ways). His intended, Bellimperia (Kat McKerrow), is real sad about his death, but she gets over it fast after noticing that the heroic Horatio (Rob Vary) has captured Balthazar and also is making sexy eyes at her. Balthazar is also captivated by the lovely Bellimperia and The King of Spain (Daniel Douek) thinks their union might be a good way to kiss and make up with Portugal. Balthazar is not crazy about having Horatio as a rival and, acting with the baddy bad-guy, Lorenzo (Bill Soucy), kills him up good. Horatio’s father, Hieronimo (Frank Vince), loses it over the death of his son and then, basically, like, a whole bunch of people die in various ways while Revenge smiles and smiles and serves it up cold. There are two things here that you are going to notice are stupidly good right away: the clothes and the blood. Costumes by Kat McKerrow were the fucking bomb. Gorge, gorge, gorge. Total Elizabethan textile porn (just Googled, MY EYES), especially the dresses. Okay, and then there is the blood. The bluuuuuuuuuddddd. Oh my God, is it ever bloody. McKerrow just WENT for it, which I could kiss him for. There’s blood exploding all up in the damn place. It’s so wonderfully gross. If you go see it just for the exploding blood, you will not be sorry, I guarantee it. Luckily, though, I think you’ll find a couple more reasons. Frank Vince turns in a barnstorm of a performance as Hieronimo, he chews it up so hard I’m surprised there were floorboards left on the stage. It’s like a Velazquez portrait of grief, so over the top. He’s especially great when he really starts to lose his marbles (the guy has a serious crush on his son). Rob Vary was pretty dashing and swaggery as Horatio, even if his part was fairly brief. He turns in it with an extra teensy touch of smarm that really worked. I thought that Kat McKerrow’s Bellimperia was a little vague in the opening scenes but she turned out to hold her own in this sausage factory, she’s excellently swoony right up until she starts stabbing some bitches. Matthew Purpora (who has hair like a romance novel cover) was swimmingly scowled as Balthazar and made a cute couple with Bill Soucy’s Disney villainous Lorenzo, who plays it real boohissingly. Couple of highlights from the supporting cast: my treasure, the beautiful Argentinian lion that is Daniel Douek, is back and having a royal good time as The King of Spain. Ishai Barnoy is always a gift to watch, his weird take on the Duke of Castile (what’s with the hand?) is fun and kind of witty. Jeffrey Gangwisch made some bizarre choices for the scraping and cringing servant Pedringano but the more I thought about it the more I liked it. I’m a little in love with him now. And Jennifer Hasselbusch was surprisingly and genuinely poignant in her role of Isabella, Horatio’s poor mother. The cast was great, the tech was a little rocky. Scene changes took 4fuckingever and there’s an amatuerish tree that caused so many problems and was so awkward that I probably would just as soon they cut it.
BOTTOM LINE: The Spanish Tragedy is a relentless straight shooter that doesn’t stray far from box, book, bell or candle but it does truly understand the pot boiler that it is and boy, does that pot boil. It’s fun to watch good, old-fashioned scenery chompin’. It could use a pick up of some ponderous scene changes and to fix some elementary technical issues. For a July evening, though, it’s passionate, entertaining and there are swords and hangin’ and some excellent grossness and hot hotties in tight tighties. In other words? Yes, please.
Running at Mobtown Players until July 26th.
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