Through October 13|
‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE Andrews Theatre/Irish Classical Theatre Company
By Augustine Warner
There’s nothing like love to start a tragedy.
Playwrights can build effectively on what happens between two people.
It doesn’t have to be conventional love and John Ford’s “’Tis Pity She’s a Whore” is a great example.
Here, it’s incest, love between sister Annabella (Anna Krempholtz) and brother Giovanni (Jeremy Kreuzer).
Everything rolls downhill from there.
As so often true in Protestant British theatre, this isn’t about a British noble.
Instead, it’s set in Italy, with those awful Catholic cardinals who excuse sin and corruption among their own people.
In those times of religious strife and foreign machinations, Ford might have been in serious trouble by setting the tale in Britain.
Moving it to Italy dodged the issues of the troubled reign of King Charles I and his dissolute allies.
The lovers’ father, Signor Florio (David Oliver) wants to marry Annabella off to one of the local rich nobles and there are several available.
He appears to have given up on Giovanni.
What dad doesn’t know is what Friar Bonaventura (Christian Brandjes) knows and tries to stop is the incest.
As usual in the dramas of the period, there are complicated subplots built around the central tale of taboo love.
That includes various backroom planned murders.
The kicker here is that it isn’t just the lovers, who know what’s going on, it’s also Putana, Annabella’s maid, (Charmagne Chi), who knows and eventually tells.
There’s also Hippolita (Aleks Malejs), a one-time lover of Annabella’s suitor Lord Soranzo (Adriano Gatto), who wants him dead because he threw her away after they cuckolded her husband and arranged for the husband to, apparently, die.
The Iago character here is Soranzo’s servant, Vasques (Rolando Martin Gomez), who arranges to kill his master through yet another of the variant characters here, Grimaldi (Ben Michael Moran).
The bodies start dropping, eventually leading to a final scene worthy of the last act of “Hamlet” and a truly stunning example of misogyny, with Annabella buried at a country crossroads outside Parma, while the three dead guys get nice funerals and burial in the churchyard.
He gets three days to leave town and head home to Spain.
Director Fortunato Pezzimenti has lots of experience working with the Irish Classical’s confined stage and with set designer David Dwyer’s experience with the Andrews’ stage.
This is a many scenes play and the speed of the scene changes using the cast keeps it moving along quickly, not letting the tension and the horror of the whole story slow down.
Pezzimenti has a strong cast, dominated by Vasques and his plotting.
Kreuzer gets better as the play bleeds along and he has strong support from Krempholtz, Chi, Moran and Gatto.
The Irish often brings back nearly forgotten play and that’s good because if you haven’t seen the early works, Shakespeare obviously, but others like Ford, you often can’t understand the way theatre developed in the English-speaking world.
“’Tis Pity She’s a Whore” is an interesting look at using life in another country to probe your own, as the playwright uses Italy to offer a look at his own society.
The incest has made it controversial for centuries, even leading to productions under another name.
Remember the central plot element in deciding whether or not to see this show.
It’s sensual, bloody, filled with characters oblivious to reality because they are upper crust and a look at truly twisted values.
It is worth seeing.
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