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Edward II: Boys Not on the Side

Edward II is the best-known of Christopher Marlowe's plays; and one of the earliest surviving English History plays.  It's also notable for having a bisexual protagonist.  (Re:)Directions Theatre Company's new adaptation by Director Tom Berger and Assistant Director Erin Smiley streamlines some of the more heightened language to concentrate on plot, while adding more dimension to some of the characters. 

Edward II, king of England (Jason Summers), has his nobles in an uproar when he brings his male lover Gaveston (the adorable Nick Fondulis) back from exile after the death of Edward I and sets him up with titles, money, and anything he wants.  Also highly upset by this turn of affairs is Edward's neglected wife Queen Isabella (Anaïs Koivisto), who plots with Mortimer (Cecile Monteyne), one of the nobles (with whom she is having an affair) to remove him; but Mortimer has bigger plans and intends to usurp the throne entirely.

The costumes by David Withrow (not in evidence in the photos provided) are amazing- bizarre and fantastical, with intentionally mismatching anachronisms that evoke both our time and the period, with a nod to futuristic science fiction (many of the nobles seem to have taken tips from The Cat from Red Dwarf, and Lancaster's Princess Leia cinnamon bun hairdo is a delight).  Internally consistent and exquisitely detailed, with all the Royals are in purple and gold, and all the nobles in various forms of corporate attire; they essentially set the play in no specific time, allowing the passion of the words and acting to shine through.  When Gaveston shows up after being spoiled by Edward, his hilariously overdone rock star outfit is a delight.  Some fine work by Mr. Withrow.

The acting is excellent from the main characters, though spotty amongst the supporting cast.  Mr. Summers, as Edward, is appealing and nearly comic as Edward- a nice way to undertake the role, since the character can often come across as irritating and feckless in the opening scenes- Summers makes him enjoyable throughout.  Mr. Fondulis, as Gaveston, also manages to make his somewhat spoiled character an enthusiastic delight; an ardent lover nearly worth destro ying a country for.  Ms. Koivisto is deliriously enchanting as the plotting, pill-popping Queen, and Ms. Monteyne has some fine moments as Mortimer.

Amongst the supporting cast, of especial note should be Miriam Tobin as Lancaster, whose amusing gravitas is always welcome when she's onstage.  Also some fine work by Jarred Kjack as Kent, Edward's flip-flopping brother.  Kristian Lazzaro is all hilariously smarmy moues as Spencer.  Sadly Marlowe has a habit of killing off his more interesting characters, so the end of the play tends to drag a bit.

The adaptation on the whole is exciting and interesting, though occasionally confusing.  Casting the play non-traditionally with many women in roles written for men worked fine in this never-never land, though Mortimer's affair with the Queen re-cast in Sapphic mode made their dislike of Gaveston even more hypocritical than Marlowe intended (in fact, few of the nobles in this production actually come across as heterosexual, though as one elderly woman in the audience pointed out at intermission, it's not that Edward was having Queer affairs, it's that he was so brazenly open about it).
Interpolating modern television news reports that comment on the political action in gossipy modern English was an amusing stroke, though even while clarifying the text, the device adds to the temporal confusion (are we in the 1300s?  Is it 2007?  The future?  I don't know!).  

Still, on the whole, it was a highly entertaining production.

Also, after the show, (Re:)Directions was collecting money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, in order to help supply the huge amount in potential donations that BC/EFA lost during the Broadway Stagehands' Strike.  Just some evidence that off-off-Broadway cares, too.


Directed by Tom Berger


At the 14th St. Theatre
South side of West 14th Street, between 1st & 2nd Avenues.
The theatre is located in the Sol Goldman Y of the Educational Alliance on the second floor, accessible by elevator

Tickets available through

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