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  The Duchess of Malfi at Strawdog Theatre

The Duchess of Malfi

Strawdog Theatre
1802 W. Berenice Chicago

Based on actual events in the Italian Court of the Sixteenth Century, Webster’s The Duchess Of Malfi tells the story of the widowed Duchess and her secret marriage to Antonio. The love of the Duchess defies both social convention and the wishes of her brothers, The Cardinal, and her twin, Ferdinand. Publicly the brothers want the Duchess to remain unmarried, appealing to Christian piety; however, their true motives are greed and an incestuous lust. When the brothers learn of the marriage, it unleashes a storm of murderous revenge.

Thru - May 26, 2012

Thursdays: 8:00pm
Fridays: 8:00pm
Saturdays: 8:00pm
Sundays: 4:00pm

Price: $28

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-528-9696

Running Time: 2hrs, 20mins; one intermission

Nearby Restaurants

  The Duchess of Malfi Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...Mostly, though, they gum up Webster's tightly geared plot, helping to obscure the answers to fundamental questions like why the widowed duchess's brothers would conspire to murder her if she dares marry a commoner. Without conceptual coherence to guide them, the wildly uneven cast swim against multiple currents for almost two and a half hours, arriving nowhere."
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Justin Hayford

Windy City Times - Somewhat Recommended

"...This extravagant physicality isn't shocking to modern theatergoers acclimated to graphic imagery—especially since the principal actors keep a firm grip on their text, never allowing their passions to spill over into excess—but Bruce also incorporates such Attic motifs as live musicians playing period instruments and a speaking chorus garbed as androgynous quasi-Peter Brook grotesques."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Centerstage - Somewhat Recommended

"...Rather than seeking touchstones in modern day, director Brandon Bruce reaches all the way back to the Greek roots of tragedy. He creates a 5 person, ever-present chorus that constantly swarms around the action. Their macabre face paint and the maniacal glint in their eyes telegraph the play’s violent end right from the beginning. And while much of what they did was intriguing, I often found myself wondering “Why?” So many of the artistic decision made on this production smacked of goth cool rather than emotional honesty."

Alex Huntsberger

Time Out Chicago - Somewhat Recommended

"...Bruce invents a six-actor chorus in flowy robes and punked-out hair that, when not standing in for 20-plus minor characters, lurks at the action’s edges performing stylized movement exercises, twisty or pulsating, along with atmospheric sound effects. They serve to create more confusion than clarity, as do Jordan Kardasz’s moody lighting and Bruce’s rushed pacing. Still, Turner turns out a nuanced performance."
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Kris Vire

Chicago On the Aisle - Recommended

"...Bruce’s trick is to transmogrify the play’s assorted small roles into a sort of Greek chorus of actors uniformly robed in white. They pipe up variously in dialogue with the main characters, engage in choreographed movement or utter unison groans of grief or anxiety, a vocal complement to composer-sound designer Mike Przygoda’s evocative, nearly constant backdrop of percussive effects."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

Stage and Cinema - Somewhat Recommended

"... If there were a Joseph Jefferson Award simply for risk-taking in the theatre, Brandon Bruce would most assuredly win for his direction of John Webster’s Jacobean tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi. Mr. Bruce has assembled a savvy design team and has employed numerous theatrical styles to tell the tale at Strawdog Theatre. While Stage and Cinema sincerely bestows Mr. Bruce with an “A for Effort” award, the hodgepodge of old-school, experimental theater techniques ultimately add confusion to an already tricky play – one which is made even more inaccessible by the truncated, sped-up adaptation by Mr. Bruce (with Christine Scarfuto). All of the latter would have been acceptable, however, had the uneven acting not become the dirt which asphyxiated the story’s fire."
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Tony Frankel

ChicagoCritic - Somewhat Recommended

"...I may be too sensitive to fast-talking actors who have trouble with verse dialogue, but several audience members complained after the show that they had trouble understanding The Duchess, Bozola (Joshua Davis), Antonio, and Ferdinand. I believe that once the main players slow down and articulate their dialogue, The Duchess of Malfi will be a worthy presentation of a classic 17th Century Elizabethan tragedy."
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Tom Williams

Chicago Stage Standard - Somewhat Recommended

"... Finally, there’s Joshua Davis’ necessarily complicated Bosola, a villain who sickens of becoming his own death squad and turns to vengeance. He mostly rises to his unexpected occasions, giving this thrill-killing slaughterfest some of the texture and ambivalence it deserves."

Lawrence Bommer

Let's Play at ChicagoNow - Somewhat Recommended

"...Acting as director and co-adapter, new Artistic Director Brandon Bruce boldly begins his tenure at Strawdog. Bruce works with Christine Scarfuto to adapt John Webster’s story for contemporary audiences. The ambitious undertaking results in innovation and convolution. A chorus of five men and one woman add a level of imaginative comedy and whimsy. Dressed in togas with wild hair and makeup (Joanne Melville-costumes and Aly Renee Amidei-makeup/hair), the ever present group add a quirky and mysterious dimension. Their choreographed movement makes them appear to be apparitions or muses. They are fascinating to watch. In particular, Cate Davison haunts the stage with a subtle but statuesque presence. I’m so engrossed in these figments’ antics I lose track of the real storyline. And the real storyline is a doozy!"
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Katy Walsh

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