Friday, March 29, 2013
This weekend is your last chance to catch The New Theatre Project's bold adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's "Edward II" at the Mix Studio Theater in Ypsilanti. The source material follows the largely disastrous reign of a bratty king who struggles with his family, struggles with love, struggles with accepting a place in this world that he neither wants nor excels at. Jason Sebacher's script punches up these highly relatable themes for a decadent but ultimately substantive mix between a coming out story and "My Super Sweet Sixteen." It works.
The scene opens on decorative candles and a glittering cross on the wall, empty prescription bottles and booze huddled in a corner. It's the Sunday-morning bedroom of any hard-partying 20-something twink. Except this twink is King Edward (Chris Jakob), ruler of England. And Gaveston (John Denyer), his favourite, his lover--indisputably; TNTP's production does not play with this ambiguity the way the original material does--is coming home.
Meanwhile, Edward's queen (an impeccable Andrew Papa in drag, lording a few inches over the rest of the cast) is making a power grab. She can't control her otherwise-interested husband, so Queen Isabella lures his brother Kent (Artun Kircali) into her web, and they effect the downfall of Edward II. Isabella is an exciting character to watch. Her ruthlessness is utterly predictable, and yet still enthralling. Is she a woman wanting to rule as a man? A man who has to rule as a woman? It's a gender pretzel where Isabella's only hard-and-fast characteristic is her hunger for power. Delectable.
The veneer of the play shines a cold light on poor Edward, whose gallivanting seems reduced to reality-TV tropes and very privileged teen angst. "It's my country, it's my life!" he shouts; he might be arguing for more time on the Internet, or permission to take the car out on Saturday. But the core of the play is deeply sympathetic to the character, and the re-imagining of "Edward II" around the gay narrative feels natural and redeeming for the failed king. Things would have been different for Edward, this production suggests, in a different time.
Posted by Erika Jost at 10:18 AM