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a Comedy
by Ben Jonson

COMPANY : Resurgens Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 4958

SHOWING : September 21, 2016 - September 25, 2016



As part of our Ben Jonson First Folio Quadricentennial Season, Resurgens Theatre ompany returns to the Shakespeare Tavern this September with one of the most enduring comedies of the seventeenth century. Delight with us in the duplicitous schemes of a master con artist and his cunning parasite (Volpone, the Fox and Mosca, the Fly), as they expose and exploit the ravenous cravings of a corrupt society. Directed by Dr. Brent Griffin, this “original practices” production focuses sharply on the biting satire and multifaceted irony that makes Jonson’s play famous, underscoring Samuel Pepys’ oft-repeated claim that it is “a most excellent play; the best I think I ever saw.”

Director Brent Griffin
Bonario (the Good One) Ty Autry
Celia (the Heavenly One) Janine DeMichele Baggett
Avocatore (the Magistrate) Eric Brooks
Nano (the Dwarf) Hannah Lake Chatham
Voltore (the Vulture) Bryan Davis
Corvino (the Crow) Joe Falocco
Volpone (the Fox) Thom Gillott
Corbaccio (the Raven) Joe Kelly
Mosca (the Fly) Hayley Platt
Lady Would-be Catherine Thomas
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The Fox Outfoxed
by playgoer
Friday, September 23, 2016
Ben Jonson’s "Volpone" is a classic 17th century comedy, done by the Resurgens Theatre Company in "original practice" (which means that there are no lighting effects or lighting changes and no pre-recorded sound effects or backing tracks for the musical numbers). It concerns a miserly man who has pretended to be near death so that he can obtain gifts from a collection of people who each are angling to be his sole heir. Volpone is aided and abetted by his servant Mosca as he pits one against the other, until at the end all get their just desserts. And it’s talky.

The set for the show is the standard set-up for the Shakespeare Tavern, with curtains under the portico to serve as an alcove for Volpone’s bed, which is occasionally carried downstage for specific scenes. The blocking uses the space nicely. The judge’s bench on the balcony above the portico and scenes within the audience spread out the action to spill off the stage proper.

Costumes, designed and constructed by Catherine Thomas and Anné Carole Butler, add great visual appeal to the show. Ms. Thomas, who plays the role of Lady Would-be in the show, wears a full-length, full skirt as part of her outfit, with fan, mirror, and book attached by ribbons to the waistband. It’s a blast. The costume for Mosca (Hayley Platt) is a terrific collection of colors in the tan and pink range, with subtly different colors in the two legs of her tights. Everyone else is costumed nicely as well.

Acting is generally good, but there were a lot of semi-apparent line flubs on opening night that caused bumps and sputters in the pace. Brent Griffin’s direction provides lots of energy otherwise, and certainly gets the story across. Projection is great across the board.

Hayley Platt is a standout in the cast, with wonderful physicality in her role as a (male) servant. Hannah Lake Chatham works well with her as another servant, although her role is pretty much extraneous to the plot. Her rendition of Jonson’s famous song "Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes" is very nice, but comes out of the blue.

The would-be heirs to Volpone all do nice work (line flubs aside). Bryan Davis is forceful as Voltore, a lawyer, and gets belly laughs with the physicality of his fake demonic possession. Joe Kelly is dodderingly perfect as Corbaccio, and Joe Falocco has stage presence times 1,000 as merchant Corvino. Catherine Thomas’ non-stop chatter makes her role a laugh fest.

Janine DeMichele Baggett and Ty Autry play the roles of the young would-be lovers (who are falsely accused of being that before the fact). Ms. Baggett is dark-haired, expressive loveliness in a lovely yellow dress, while Mr. Autry is pretty colorless, both in costume and in performance.

Thom Gillott, in the central role of Volpone, is weak in the singing department and doesn’t really command the stage as perhaps he should, but he gives a perfectly acceptable performance. Eric Brooks, reading his lines as the judge, gives an assured performance (line flub aside).

Brent Griffin has put together a fine production of a classic text, which clocks in at just about two intermissionless hours. Its wordiness works against it, particularly when the line load doesn’t seem to be fully under the command of the actors, but the direction is sparkling and direct and humorous. "Volpone" is well-regarded as a classic comedy, but I find that Jonson’s somewhat rarefied literary bent keeps it just this side of being a rollicking good time. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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