Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of THE WHITE DEVIL
Louisa Proske directs John Webster's The White Devil-a play that was was first performed at the original Red Bull theatre in the early months of 1612-is being given its first NY production in over fifty years (It was last revived in 1965 at the Circle in the Square starring Frank Langella).
Amara James Aja (Off-Broadway debut! Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Macbeth - The Old Globe); Jenny Bacon (Heartless - Signature Theatre; In The Wake - The Public Theatre;A Streetcar Named Desire, Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, More Stately Mansions), Lisa Birnbaum (Off-Bway: F#%king Up Everything, I'm Getting My Act Together..., Abe Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party, Lizzie Borden), Robert Cuccioli (Bway: Jekyll & Hyde - Tony Award nomination, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, Les Miserables), Edward O'Blenis (Off-Bway: Coriolanus, Spring Awakening, Hamlet), Daniel Oreskes (Bway:Oslo, The Miracle Worker, Billy Elliot, Cymbeline, Aida, Electra, The Song of Jacob Zulu;Off-Bway: Hir, The Devils, Henry V, Quills, Othello), Cherie Corinne Rice (Off-Bway: The Lark, Ensemble Studio Theater; Regional: Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Berkeley Rep, Trinity Rep), Socorro Santiago (Bway: The Bacchae; Off-Bway: L'illusion - NYTW;The Promise - EST; "Mozart in the Jungle"), Tommy Schrider (Bway: War Horse; Off-Bway: Macbeth -TFANA; Close Ties - EST; Acts of Mercy - Rattlestick; She Stoops to Conquer - Irish Rep; "The Americans"); Derek Smith (Bway: The Green Bird -Tony nomination, Timon of Athens, The Lion King; Off-Broadway: Sylvia, The Green Bird - Obie Award, King John - Derwent Award; 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, The Witch of Edmonton - Callaway Award), and T. Ryder Smith (Broadway: Oslo, War Horse, Equus; Off Bway:Summer and Smoke - CSC/Transport Group; She Stoops to Comedy - Playwrights Horizons) star.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Alexis Soloski, The New York Times: Webster's verse is a blunt, evocative instrument. Though Ms. Proske could have cut some of the more obscure lines, the figurative language catches the ear like a barbed hook. Characters speak of the "soft down of an insatiable bed," of poison under "gilded pills," of playing football with severed heads. If there had been psychoanalysts in 17th-century England, they would have had a field day with this stuff. Certainly the cast has a nice wallow.
Michael Sommers, New York Stage Review: First-class productions of The White Devil are few and far between in New York-hell, any productions of The White Devil are about as rare as sightings of Bigfoot in Central Park. According to the record books, John Webster's seething revenge drama of 1612 vintage has never appeared on Broadway, and has been staged only twice by off-Broadway companies. So it is a pleasure to report that Red Bull Theater, the invaluable company which brings very old plays to life, presents a smashing new staging of The White Devil at the Lucille Lortel Theatre.
David Walters, New York Theatre Guide: The play is kind of like the subtitle above in parenthesis, lots of characters, lots of things to follow and threads to hang on to, but mainly lots of tragedy and death. T.S. Eliot said that Webster "saw the skull beneath the skin" in each person and this, his first play written solo, highlights that trait. Operatic in its scope, Louisa Proske and her background were brought on as director to helm the turbulent storyline and guide the production through its choppy waters by keeping it clear, focused and succinct. She has done that, making the piece relevant and approachable.
Deb Miller, DC Metro: As directed by Louisa Proske, Webster's complex plot and sub-plots, multitude of figures, and setting in Italy have been retained, as has his rich and expressive 17th-century language. But the production's design is transplanted to the post-modern era, to underscore the socio-political import and universality of its themes and, in so doing, to reaffirm that classics are classic for a reason.
Photo credit: Carol Rosegg