THE WHITE DEVIL: Show Review by Debby Gray Bloom


I attend every show prepared to do two things.

First, suspend  my disbelief and two, totally enjoy the performance.

Unfortunately, I was totally unprepared for The White Devil, produced by The Red Bull Theatre at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on Christopher Street.

When a Playbill includes a full page insert with a synopsis of the plot, you know it is either truly complicated and or the director realized the audience may  be confused. Presented on a thrust stage with seats on 3 sides, the set is modern, simple and intimate.   The ushers warned us in advance to keep the aisles clear as entrances and exits would be frequently made through the audience.

The play was written  in 1612, yes that 1612, by John Webster, a contemporary of William Shakespeare.  I suggest that one should be a fan of Shakespeare to be a fan of the lesser known Webster.

The show starts with high energy impactful music, lights, and video. Later there are 8 screens with what resembles real time surveillance  videos. With costumes not of the period, they still help define the characters. It takes skill and experience to deliver Shakespearean English in a way that allows the audience to quickly grasp the meaning without having to dwell on it so long that you miss what is coming next. The actors are all of that skill and talent. Having seen many of them before in notable Off Broadway and Broadway shows, including the Tony nominated Robert Cuccioli (for Jekyll and Hyde), Daniel Oreskes and T. Ryder Smith ( both recently in Oslo), it was fun to see them in something totally different. The cuckolded husband was adequately nebbishy, the duplicitous wife was manipulative and sexy, the Duke convincingly manipulative and vengeful, the jilted wife sympathetic and alluring, the unfaithful husband cloying and desperate.  Even more fun was to watch the maid/son switch back and forth between disparate characters so adeptly played by Cherie Corinne Rice.  Let’s hear it for those costume changes!

There were some  laughs, there was some gore, there was some lust, there were some great lines « the caged bird sings », there were great entrances and exits. Yet, it took me time to catch on to the story, time to engage, time to care.  If I cared at all.  I have seen a lot of excellent Shakespearean theatre….at the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park, Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires, Shakespeare on the Common in Boston and The Drilling Company ‘s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.  I have never been able to personally relate to the story or the characters.  That has never mattered before.  I have always enjoyed those productions. This time it mattered.

In 1965, the play ran at Circle in the Square with Frank Langella. That production was also  a revival.  Clearly there is an audience for John Webster’s work.  Perhaps, if I had been better prepared for what I was about to see, I would be that audience, but perhaps you are.

The White Devil is running thru April 14th. Visit http://www.redbulltheater.com.

 

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  1. One Response to “THE WHITE DEVIL: Show Review by Debby Gray Bloom”

  2. Great description of this production and what an interesting, well thought out review! Thanks for this information Debby!

    By Barbara kaufman on Apr 4, 2019

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