‘Edward II’ brings an old, sad tale to green

Friday, April 25, 2008

The sun sets and the swords come out in Shakespeare on the Green’s spring production, Christopher Marlowe’s “Edward II,” which opened Thursday night and will run through Sunday.

The open-air show, free and open to the public, is performed in Starr Plaza, behind the Watson Institute for International Studies at 111 Thayer St.

Directed by Emily Toner ’10, Marlowe’s play tells the sad tale of the 14th-century English monarch – played by Ted Cava ’11 – whose public relationship with his gay lover, the lowly born Gaveston (Jonathan Migliori ’11) incites open war with the nobles and his conflicted queen, Isabella (Seicha Turnbull ’11).

In the end, Edward is psychologically destroyed, deposed and brutally murdered, though the traitors also meet a quick end at the hands of his heir, Edward III (Shana Tinkle ’11).

The student production is energetic and fast-paced, clocking in at just under 90 minutes at Wednesday’s dress rehearsal. The fight scenes, choreographed by Adam Lubitz ’09, are especially well-done, making good use of Starr Plaza’s open layout.

Performing in Starr Plaza “adds a lot to the show in terms of using all of it,” Toner said, adding, “It forces us to be more creative in staging it.”

Especially strong performances come from Cava, playing Edward, and Nick Schoenfeld ’10 as his nemesis, Young Mortimer.

Edward is a weak king, distracted from the business of ruling by his obsession with Gaveston, easily manipulated and resorting to bribery to get his way with the nobles, to no effect. “Was ever king thus overruled as I?” he wails, and gets a sharp reply from the Earl of Lancaster (Jill Griffith ’10): “Learn, then, to rule us better.”

Cava brings across Edward’s weakness and internal conflict well, as he does Edward’s latent cruelty, dismissing his loving wife by embracing and kissing Gaveston. But Cava especially shines as the play goes on and Edward deteriorates, losing articles of clothing, his dignity and perhaps his mind as his throne crumbles beneath him.

Schoenfeld appears natural as the intense, strong-willed Mortimer, who is willing to take whatever actions are necessary to protect England and achieve his own ambitions – somewhat in the spirit of William Shakespeare’s Richard III, though less overtly evil.

“Edward II” is, of course, not by Shakespeare, the theater group’s namesake, but by his contemporary, Marlowe. Toner said she was excited to do a production of “Edward II” after discovering the play last summer.

“I think Marlowe is a fairly underappreciated playwright, especially in comparison to Shakespeare,” she said. Marlowe has a different style than Shakespeare, she said, and she wanted to show the range of work from that fertile era.

Performances are at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday in Starr Plaza. In case of rain, the Friday and Saturday performances will be moved to List 120 and the Sunday show will be in Petteruti Lounge in Faunce House. Admission is free to all shows.

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