So, I went to see Duchess in a rep with The Changling at Brave Spirits Theater in Alexandria. I had mentioned to Bridget that I was going to see this, and she told me this was a terrible idea. JC also said that I probably shouldn’t do it.
I think they were right.
I think the production was probably fine, but I don’t have the space or distance to know. I felt deeply odd, beginning early in the action. I couldn’t place the feeling–like I was lost, I think.
It was all very strange because I usually love seeing shows that I have directed. Watching them is a palimpsest of my decisions and the other director’s–it’s interesting, it opens the script for me in new ways. Because I know and love the script so well, I can enter into it in a way that is different from any other shows. But this play hardly even felt familiar, somehow.
Afterward, I was talking with a friend about this strange experience, and she said, “I think you were expecting some spark of the spiritual experience you had working on your own Duchess, and when it didn’t happen, you felt disoriented.” It’s as good an explanation as any, I guess. I probably won’t go out of my way to see Duchess again.
So I don’t have a ton to say about this production. They did some interesting things with setting, making it very 1940s and noir, which was cool. The guy who played Ferdinand was great–he had such wild energy throughout the play that I felt unsurprised when he became the wolf. They also chose to play Bosola as a woman (not just a female actor, but a female character), which was also an interesting choice, in this text that is so much about women and the degree to which they are controlled by men–it heightened Bosola’s being trapped by the brothers Malfi.
Dramaturg Claire Kimball, who is a grad school colleague, gave a preshow talk that was interesting, and I learned a few things about the play and about Webster. I hadn’t ever processed the similarities between The White Devil and Duchess, plot-wise. And there was some hot gos on Marston, which is always good.