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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: February ::
Thomas Kyd, *The Spanish Tragedy*, in New York
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0304  Monday, 22 February 1999.

From:           Daniel Traister <
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Date:           Sunday, 21 Feb 1999 15:01:10 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Thomas Kyd, *The Spanish Tragedy*, in New York

Professors Jean E. Howard and Barbara H. Traister having provided them a
cautiously and tepidly enthusiastic preliminary report after seeing,
last weekend (February 14), Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, Professors
Steven Urquartowitz and Phyllis Rackin, the undersigned, and three
students saw this production last night (Saturday, 20 February).

The play runs only one more weekend: the one coming up (25-28 Feb, at 8
PM Thurs, Fri, Sat; 2 PM Sun). It's performed at Collective Unconscious
(a Jung company), 145 Ludlow Street (two blocks east of First Avenue and
about two-and-a-half blocks south of Houston Street), New York City.
Tickets cost $10 if reserved in advance at 212 254 5277; an additional
phone number you must call comes at the end of the long taped message
you will hear. They cost $12 at the door; it's probably worth the two
bucks not to have to listen to the message. Howard and Traister shared
the theater last weekend with about eight others; we saw it this weekend
with about fifty. (Good word-of-mouth?) There were seats available both
nights (the space probably seats close to 65-70 altogether).

The theater looks like a former garage or an opium den from a Sergio
Leone movie; it is not well-heated; and if I remark that, in contrast to
Professor Urquartowitz (see below), I was on the edge of my seat for
much of the performance, that is a comment on the seats, not on the
production.  Come equipped.

On the other hand, the chance to see so rarely-performed a play does not
often come up; cautious and tepid though the enthusiasm of our
informants may have been, this production seems worth recommending, even
at this late date, to others in the New York area able to get to it. The
price is certainly worth it. In view of current New York theatrical
prices, one might even say that the production is worth every penny.

Professor Urquartowitz, who recently reported here on the snooze factor
at a Kabuki Shakespeare production, spent the first third of the
production intently studying this phenomenon once again, and chose to
absent himself from the felicities of the latter two thirds of the
performance; his assessment would no doubt differ from mine. I found the
production watchable, even moving, despite faults. Bel-Imperia (Jeff
Bear) is played by a good actor, but he is simply too big for the role
(he is a fine Revenge, however). Isabella, by contrast, worked better
(Gianni Baratta).  (The students remarked their interest in seeing what
they have only heard about in Elizabethan theater: male actors in female
roles.)

Jason Kaufman, the best actor on the stage, gets offed earliest: he's
Horatio. Too bad. Moses Morales opens as Don Andrea. A good actor, he
has an accent that does not enhance his understandability. Jason
Reynolds is a very decent Lorenzo/Viluppo. Other actors also have real
virtues, even Caleb J. Sekeres (Hieronimo), although a stronger
Hieronimo than he would have been desirable.

Dan Nichols, directing his first stage production, must love the play:
why else would he have done it? But he neither uses the constricted
space of his venue imaginatively nor has a clue about how to use his
actors; the production, as Professor U. noted, is static -- ALL
rhetoric, no action; and the lines of the speeches are all end-stopped
(whether they need to be or not).

By no means an "ideal" Spanish Tragedy, this is one we've got right now.
If you can get to it I don't think you'll regret it too much at all.

Dan Traister
Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, University of Pennsylvania
 

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