By Joel Pierson H-T Theater columnist
Jan 29, 2017
IU Theater is going a little more classical this time around, with its production of “The Duchess of Malfi,” a love story that turns dark and tragic by its ending. It was written in 1612 by William Shakespeare, and —
Ha ha! I have tricked you with my alternative fact! It was actually written by John Webster, a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, and performed at the Globe Theatre. (Just keeping you on your toes, gentle readers.) Webster, while lacking Shakespeare’s marketing department, could still turn out a powerful piece of drama, as evidenced in “Duchess.”
Webster’s play takes place in the Italian court at Amalfi in the early 16th century. The Duchess, a widow, falls in love with a steward named Antonio. Her brothers forbid her from marrying him — for all the wrong reasons, primarily greed and arrogance. She shows them who’s boss by eloping with Antonio and starting a family.
What could go wrong? Short answer: everything, particularly because one of her brothers is, shall we say, differently sane. What follows is a series of unfortunate events that would make Lemony Snicket gasp in horror, including exile, capture, revenge, and brutal punishment. Please excuse any spoilers, but I didn’t want you going in thinking you’re going to see an episode of “Friends.”
What you are going to see is some of the strongest Elizabethan tragic drama ever to grace the stage. Director Katie Horwitz is mixing things up a bit by updating the story for modern audiences, but the heart and soul of Webster’s tale is still there, exposing the dark underside of power and corruption.
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If you go
WHO: Indiana University Department of Theater, Drama, and Contemporary Dance
WHAT: “The Duchess of Malfi” by John Webster
WHERE: Wells-Metz Theater, 275 N. Jordan
WHEN: 7:30 pm, Feb. 3–4, 7–11; 2 pm, Feb. 11
TICKETS: $15–25. Call 812-855-1103 or visit www.theatre.indiana.edu.