“The Duchess of Malfi” presented by Green Stage

There will be blood! Of course there will. It’s a Green Stage “Hard Bard” production, known by the cognoscenti as Seattle’s master theatre of bloodletting. Thus, their presentation of “The Duchess of Malfi” is a blood-soaked take on John Webster’s 17th C Jacobean drama.

It’s a tale of love gone wrong, jealousy, treachery, and murder. And it’s all produced with Elizabeth Power’s excellent costumes, in the campiest manner possible. The widowed duchess secretly weds a man beneath her station. Her two brothers find out and life gets bloody awful for all of them.

Director Tony Driscoll must have had enormous fun casting the production. The two scheming brothers are presented as a contrast in sizes—one thin, the other very round. Nicole Vernon as the Duchess is regal, and lovely. She makes a properly noble but doomed heroine. And then there’s her baby, my favorite character. What a baby he is, almost six feet of him, with his nicely trimmed beard, tattoos, and voluminous diaper. His very presence on stage is funny.

Also funny is the somber scrub wench who returns frequently to the stage, mop and scrub bucket in hand, ever ready to clean up the blood. She says little, just washes away.

By the end of the play, everyone but the baby and the scrub wench have been killed. It all takes a little too long, but it does give the actors an opportunity to bleed profusely. Audience members are warned to avoid the front row if they don’t want to be bled upon (stage blood is washable). The night I was there, the front row was filled first. These were people who wanted the involvement with actors those seats provide.

This is a jolly romp for those who love camp. And remember Green Stage offerings are always free. Donations are gratefully accepted.

Through March 19, North Seattle College – Stage One, 9600 College Way North, Seattle, (206 748-1551 or www.greenstage.org).

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