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Monday, 27 April 2015 21:14

Off-Broadway Review: TIS PITY SHE'S A WHORE

Written by
Derek Smith, Christopher Innvar, Clifton Duncan, Amelia Pedlow  and Franchelle Stewart  (l-r) Derek Smith, Christopher Innvar, Clifton Duncan, Amelia Pedlow and Franchelle Stewart (l-r) Photo: Richard Termine

While its title is lewd to the point of humor, Tis A Pity She's A Whore, now in performance at The Duke on 42nd Street by the Red Bull Theatre Company, is a richly sincere classical tragedy. The play, by John Ford and directed by Jesse Berger, follows the love affair of siblings Giovanni and Annabella. They swear a secret pact of fidelity, which is quickly tested by a number of Annabella's suitors. These suitors include Bergetto, a fop who is murdered by a second suitor, the hot tempered Roman Grimaldi. The third suitor, Soranzo is a schemer, though his advances on Annabella do ring with sincerity.

Annabella refuses all three, however upon discovering that she is pregnant with her brother's child, her hand is forced and she endures a swift marriage to Soranzo. Soranzo's former lover, Hippolita, attends the wedding feast with an aim to murder him using his own servant, Vasquez. Vasquez hoodwinks Hippolita, murdering her, establishing his loyalty to Soranzo.

Soranzo then discovers Annabella's pregnancy and demands to know who impregnated her. She refuses, but her handmaiden tells Vasquez the truth in confidence and is punished for her knowledge. In the end Giovanni decides to spare Annabella the shame of society and murders her in her bed before exiting and inciting a heart attack from his father and stabbing Soranzo. Vasquez then stabs Giovanni to death as the cardinal laments upon Annabella stating "Tis a pity she's a whore."

The play is decidedly lopsided in worthiness of staging. The moments which focus upon the lovers are centered in a mature and compelling discussion of romance. The rest of the plot verges on telenovela silliness and is delivered with a clear ambition for entertainment rather than compelling discussion. Though, if the plot is uneven, the performers are uniform in their undeniable craftsmanship.

The foppish Bergetto is committedly clowned by Ryan Garbayo and Kelley Curran as Hippolita, who inhabits that same end of the caricature spectrum, is delightfully two dimensional in her scheming. Clifton Duncan fleshes out Soranzo well, though he isn't given much material to work with beyond his circumstance. The lovers, Matthew Amendt as Giovanni and Amelia Pedlow as Annabella, tangle with the play's core relationship with daring humanity. In particular Pedlow sculpts a conflicted girl with astonishing balance of colloquial air and poetic form. Our discovery of these incestuous lovers nude in bed with hair flowing like a mannerist painting, is as necessary as it is effective.

The set by David Barber and costuming by Sara Jean Tosetti attempt a baroque punk facade. Their stylizations are generally synthetic and charmless. Only Peter West's sensuous lighting delivers on a poignant discussion of love. His pours uninhibited light upon the lovers, guiding the performers in color like a Caravaggio painting. Also Dave Bova's hair and makeup design marries Italian romance with contemporary punk very well. Jesse Berger's direction crafted a relevant and entertaining revival of a still obviously flawed play.

Side character denouements are practically comedic in their non sequitur delivery and the design shows a bland desperation for topicality. Yet, in the play's central discussion of injustice, and still challenging legitimization of incestuous romance, he validates the functionality of Ford's scandalous play.

Additional Info

  • Theatre: The Duke on 42nd Street
  • Theatre Address: 229 West 42nd Street New York, NY
  • Show Style: Play
  • Previews:: April 14, 2015
  • Opening Night: April 26, 2015
  • Closing: May 16, 2015
Last modified on Tuesday, 28 April 2015 10:22