TW: Rape, murder.

It’s not every day I get to see an early modern play that I haven’t seen or read before, but somehow I missed The Changling.

Lucky for me, Brave Spirits was on that.

The Changling is a rape and murder story. Fun times. The direction, by Charlene Smith, who I believe also went through the S&P program at ASC, was brilliant. In staging the rape, she had the woman get covered in black smudgy handprints, including one over her mouth. Throughout the remainder of the play, the actor was in her slip, with these black smudges all over her body and face, and nobody (none of the other actors) could see it. I loved this nonliteral way to stage the rape. It was more chilling and effective than I think it would have been if she staged a hyperliteral one. There’s also a wedding shortly after the rape (the woman doesn’t marry her rapist, but the rape taints her joy in her marriage, as well as leading to a whole pile of murders). In the wedding, the man marries the woman’s dress, held up by other actors–the woman, newly smudged, watches from outside. This was such a brilliant way to stage the disassociation the character felt in that moment, that I may have audibly gasped (sorry!).

The B plot in this play takes place in some kind of hospital/school for fools and madmen, including a couple guys who pretend to be fools in order to get closer the the daughter of the man who runs the place. In this staging, the fools and madmen were represented by puppets, which were discarded when the men cast off their disguises to woo the girl. It was super weird, but also very effective and clear. It allowed an indulgence in the silliness of this plot, as a contrast to the very dark and serious A plot.

Brave Spirits is doing interesting work and picking challenging material. I’m looking forward to seeing more of their work, particularly where Charlene is directing.

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