Conjectured authors of the anonymous Arden of Faversham include Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. A domestic tragedy, it’s based on the true story of an unhappy wife who ensnared a lover and gradually, just about everyone else in her orbit, in a plot to murder her husband. With adaptation, (Jeffrey Hatcher and Kathryn Walat), the play has evidently been tinkered with only in so far as some mistaken identities offering new plot twists. Changes are seamless. Its original language/syntax remains intact.
Thom Sesma (Franklin), Thomas Jay Ryan (Arden)
Thomas Arden (well grounded Thomas Jay Ryan) correctly suspects his wife Alice (Cara Ricketts, up to neither language nor role) not only of having an affair, but of humiliatingly doing so with a lowly tailor, now steward, Mosby (Tony Roach). He confides in friend/business associate Franklin (wonderfully nuanced Thom Sesma) who, in love with Thomas, disparages all women. (Indications of these feelings are deftly handled throughout. We don’t know whether the predilection was in the original play.)
Mosby’s fickle sister Susan (Emma Greer), a maid in the house, is being courted by two suitors, Arden’s servant Michael (Zach Fine, who twitches as if attacked by fleas) and the painter Clarke (Joshua David Robinson, inexplicably interpreting the role as over-the-top gay). Alice conscripts Michael, Mosby drafts Clarke, each man promised Susan’s hand in exchange for aiding in Arden’s untimely death. Needless to say the lovers don’t tell one another which comes back to bloodily bite them, or rather several others.
David Ryan Smith (Bill Will), Zach Fine (Michael), Veronica Falcón (Widow Green), Haynes Thigpen (Shakebag)
Additionally in the mix is Widow Green (an excellent Veronica Falcón) who, having been stripped of the land that supports her by uncaring aristocrat Arden, enthusiastically joins the conspiracy hiring thugs Bill Will (David Ryan Smith) and Shakebag (Haynes Thigpen). Both actors rise to the occasion, bumbling without overplaying. Both are fluent with parlance.
Everything goes awry. The wrong people get accidentally killed or are summarily dispatched. Yes, there’s blood. Alice intermittently and adamantly changes her mind back and forth in the space of two speeches. (The only plot element that doesn’t read true.) Comeuppance clears the decks.
Also featuring a thoroughly credible Joshua David Robinson.
In a presumed attempt to add Shakespearean buffoonery, Director Jesse Berger has let two of his actors stray into such exaggerated behavior, they don’t make sense in the play. Only the thug characters handle this well. Use of the stage is skillful as is pacing.
Scenic design by Christopher Swader and Justin Swader provide a 16th century manor house room with evocative ceiling buttresses and a well employed, mobile door.
Mika Eubanks’ costumes are an odd mix of ersatz Elizabethan and contemporary separates. Alice, for example, enters wearing a modern negligee, then changes into a current version of a corseted gown. Her last outfit is an unflattering patch-up of fabrics with a hi-low hem that looks not only out of place, but half finished. Well heeled men wear period correct jackets over contemporary suits. Susan’s outfit is Hollywood maid. Secondary characters are dressed for the time. A disconnect.
Incidental music by Greg Pliska is just right. Fight/intimacy director Rick Sordelet manages violence with authenticity, but not sex.
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Tony Roach (Mosby), Thomas Jay Ryan (Arden), – in the back-Emma Greer (Susan), Cara Ricketts (Alice)
Red Bull Theater presents
Arden of Faversham – A True Crime Thriller
Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and Kathryn Walat
Directed by Jesse Berger
Through April 1, 2023
Lucile Lortel Theatre
121 Christopher Street