Let the queen be
"Dido, Queen of Carthage" is every man's nightmare in Target Margin's deliberately deadpan update of the Marlowe classic.
By CARAID O'BRIEN
If power is alluring then Dido, queen of Carthage, is one sexy bitch. She eats
men for breakfast, razes villages in the afternoon and beheads the survivors
for a late-night snack. When her lover Aeneas insists on leaving her to return to
battle, she considers sinking all his ships but decides against it as it
would make him frown and
only Aeneas' frown
|DIDO, QUEEN OF CARTHAGE|
|Company: Target Margin.|
Written by: Christopher Marlowe.
Directed by: David Herskovits.
Cast: Nicole Halmos, Abigail Savage, Adrain LaTourelle, Mary Neufeld.
Related links: Official site
Is that which terrifies poor Dido's heart.
Naturally when he finally
abandons her, she throws all remembrances of her lover, including herself, into
Amazingly in its U.S. premiere, Christopher Marlowe's beautiful verse drama is
condensed into an hour and half without intermission by Target Margin. Target Margin,
one of downtown's most popular theater companies and a bastion
of not-for-profit entrepreneurship, celebrates its 10th anniversary this
year with a minifestival of the plays of Elizabethan poet Christopher
Marlowe, who died at 29. Now the focus of much media attention with biopics
and bio plays popping up in the mainstream, Marlowe's actual writing is
rarely produced. Following "Dido, Queen of Carthage," Target Margin will
present "Tamburlaine" in April and a series of readings including Marlowe's
most famous, "Faustus" texts A and B.
Although the play is titled after the queen, the primary character in this production is
not beloved Dido but much admired director David Herskovits, with his clever
choreographed blocking and self-mocking humor. In a signature style, he
relentlessly exposes theatrical conventions with stage managers half dressed
in costume stepping on and off stage blankfaced, recorded arias "performed"
closed-mouthed by actors, fire made from wood, seams, strings and curtains
always visible. The actors, who in other productions proved themselves
fiercely talented are directed in this staging to proclaim their lines in a
detached fashion with invented histrionic hand gestures, moving about like
marionettes without the strings. The presence of Herskovits is felt
throughout the evening like a happy puppeteer looming behind his creations.
David Zinn's multicolored moveable stage, complete with trap door, is
reminiscent of a enlarged puppet stage and Dido's son is played by a dirty
child's doll animated by various actors supplying a voice. Kaye Voyce's
costumes range from the emasculating, as Aeneas and his compatriots emerge from
the sea in ragged full-bodied underwear, patent-leather dress shoes and black
socks (if only they had garters), to the sublime Mary Neufeld as Juno is
costumed as a flapper in a black and white jeweled dress and matching hat.
Neufeld is actually the only actor who transcends the histrionic gestures
creating vivid portraits of both Goddess Juno and a nurse. Also Abigail
Savage is impish and engaging as Cupid. Adrain LaTourelle as Aeneas
performs and looks like a silent-film star complete with painted cheeks and a
fallen pompadour. The buxom Nicole Halmos, resplendent in a gold gown and
crown (missing only a cape) makes for an imposing Dido, but the enforced
restraint on delivery is frustrating, one imagines, for actor and audience
alike. The sexiest things in this play about passion are the two beautiful
women doubling as stagehands/spokesmodels draped in sequined silver bringing
on and off props as needed.
Two years ago, the Target Margin production of "Measure for Measure" employed
a similar deconstructed aesthetic without the understated performances, to
create one of the best shows of the year. This year's production takes that
idea one step further as the actors are relegated to accessories,
little more than talking, moving props. What emerges is an elaborately
staged reading of this neglected text but not a performance.
If you have never seen a Target Margin show, go see it their "Dido, Queen
of Carthage" is a lesson in style. If you seek an understanding of Marlowe's
verse poetry, go see it the anti-emotional delivery of the actors allows
for a clear hearing of the text. If you're going to experience the passion
of one of the great epic love stories of all time, stay home, tie up your own
personal Aeneas and read it aloud in your underwear.
|JANUARY 30, 2001|
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