omplete QPORIT: MARLOWE'S TAMBURLAINE AT TFANA

Monday, November 17, 2014

 

MARLOWE'S TAMBURLAINE AT TFANA


THEATER FOR A NEW AUDIENCE (TFANA)
PRESENTS
CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE'S
TAMBURLAINE PARTS I AND II
with JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON

NOVEMBER 1, 2014 - DECEMBER 21, 2014
www.TFANA.org

John Douglas Thompson's performance in Marlowe's exciting Tamburlaine is a magnificent tour de force.


John Douglas Thompson as Tamburlaine
TAMBURLAINE PARTS I AND II
TFANA
Credit Gerry Goodstein

Christopher Marlowe was born in 1564 a few months before Shakespeare. His first play, Tamburlaine the Great was first performed in 1587. It was based on the career of Timur the Lame, written in blank verse, and was a major success. (Shakespeare's first play was likely Henry VI from about 1590.) Tamburlaine the Great Part II was a sequel. 

Timur was a vicious warrior. According to references cited by Wikipedia, he may have been responsible for the deaths of as many as 17 million people -- about 5% of the world's population in his time, the mid 1300s.

Marlowe's Tamburlaine is charismatic, cruel, and a brilliant warrior. His tactics are to gain allies with his charisma, terrorize his foes with his cruelty, and win battles with his military acumen. A peasant and a thief, he is constantly being underestimated by the leaders of the great powers of his day. His victories in Persia, Iraq, Syria, and Egypt give this story an unmistakable modern currency.

As a play, Tamburlaine Part I is also a love story, as Tamburlaine woos his captive princess, Zenocrate of Egypt.

As a playwright, Marlowe writes elegant blank verse. But, unlike Shakespeare, there are few if any truly memorable lines. Also, the play is almost all plot; there is very little subtlety of characterization; only Tamburlaine, and hardly anyone else, gets any dimensionality.

The plotting is relatively simplistic. Tamburlaine and his adversary of the moment face off with bravado and insults, each predicting victory, after which the adversary either yields to Tamburlaine and switches sides, or Tamberlaine's armies prevail, and the enemy is killed, or enslaved and humiliated.


John Douglas Thompson as Tamburlaine
And in cage, Chukwudi Iwuji as defeated and enslaved Bajazeth
TAMBURLAINE PARTS I AND II
TFANA
Credit Gerry Goodstein

The action is rather brutal; however, in this production, the director stages murders stylistically, by simply splashing a bucket of red, bloody liquid over the actor.

Tamburlaine Part II, as mentioned before, is conspicuously a sequel, and seems to tread on much of the same ideas as Part I. The brutality escalates, including the drowning of all the men, women, and children from a city that resists.

One new idea in Tamburlaine Part II is Tamburlaine's attempts to turn over his legacy to his sons. Predating King Lear, two of Tamburlaine's three sons profess loyalty to their father's militarism, and one son embraces a peaceful life. Calling this third son effeminate and a traitor, Tamburlaine kills him.

Though it was obvious after Part I that this play could be about current events, the director includes some unnecessary anachronisms in Part II, perhaps to underscore the connections with the present time. This includes using photographs for paintings, using guns, and dressing one character in a modern suit. (By modern, here, though, the director seems to be using the 1900s as his stylistic model.) Also, perhaps to suggest some kind of universality, the director made the strange choice to cast the same actor as both Tamburlaine's love (and later, after her death, her statue) and -- in between her death and her reappearance as her statue -- as the adult son of Bajazeth, one of Tamburlaine's first victims.

Among the many reasons to see this production are John Douglas Thompson's great performance, a chance to experience Marlowe's rarely seen Tamburlaine, and to realize that this exciting play, written 500 years or half a millennium ago, could have been written today about today's news.

Theater For A New Audience (TFANA), which is now in its second season in its new home, the comfortable and elegant Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, is not difficult to reach from Manhattan, either by car over the Brooklyn Bridge, or by subway. Nearby, one also finds restaurants, parking, and BAM, the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Inside, TFANA houses a well-stocked classic book stall, drinks and refreshments.


TFANA'S CURRENT SEASON

TAMBURLAINE PARTS I AND II
NOVEMBER 1, 2014 - DECEMBER 21, 2014

SOHO REP'S AN OCTOROON
FEBRUARY 14, 2015 - MARCH 8, 2015

TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
APRIL 24, 2015 - MAY 24, 2015



LINKS

THEATER FOR A NEW AUDIENCE
www.TFANA.org


TAMBURLAINE ON WIKIPEDIA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamburlaine_(play)


TAMBURLAINE ON AMAZON

JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON ON WIKIPEDIA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Douglas_Thompson


CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE ON WIKIPEDIA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Marlowe

CHRISTOPHER MARL0WE ON AMAZON

SHAKESPEARE ON AMAZON

TIMUR THE LAME ON WIKIPEDIA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timur

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