Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, under the auspices of The Drilling Company, has returned with an energetic production of The Two Noble Kinsmen, considered to be the last play written by William Shakespeare who collaborated with the up and coming, younger John Fletcher.
Kinsmen is a tragicomedy about family loyalty, love won and lost and the prerogative of royalty, all recurring themes in the plays of Shakespeare here put through the grid of Fletcher’s newer, more melodramatic style.
Hamilton Clancy, the artistic director of The Drilling Company, staged The Two Noble Kinsmen in a modern-dress version that makes the plot of the play more accessible to the al fresco audience but tends to devalue the Elizabethan language. They have even added a few very modern turns of phrases and pop tunes to elicit laughs during the few lighter moments of the plot.
The title characters are cousins, Palamon (the vigorous Bradford Frost, also the fight captain) and Arcite (John Caliendo, smooth and sexy) who are captured after their native Thebes falls in battle. They are brought as prisoners to Athens where the Duke Theseus (Lukas Raphael, the noblest member of the cast), admiring their military prowess, tends to them quite well despite their captive status.
From the prison windows they see the beautiful Amazonian Princess Emilia (Liz Livingston, quite lovely and believable), sister to Hippolyta, Amazonian Queen (the statuesque Kathleen Simmonds), both cousins falling desperately in love with her.
Their battle over who will get Emilia becomes alternately contentious and familial and is the backbone plot of Kinsmen. Of course, it ends tragically with one of the cousins dying in an unforeseen accident leaving to the survivor the prize of Emelia.
A comic subplot involves the Jailer’s Daughter (the wonderfully daffy Jane Bradley) who becomes consumed with love for Palamon who barely notices her. She pines for Palamon to the point of madness. (Shades of Ophelia!) Her father (David Marantz, stanch and visibly concerned) tries his best to help his smitten child but even a Doctor (Mary Linehan, cool and comical) at first fails. The Doctor’s advice to an ardent Wooer (Rémy.S, earnest) to act as if he were Palamon, silly as it is, seems to do the trick.
Director Clancy has fashioned an energetic whirlwind of action with the actors coming and going at high speed, racing through the audience, often appearing to fly off the raised platform that is their stage. The actors, mostly Drilling Company stalwarts, certainly release a great deal of energy, but could speak their lines with more volume without harming their interpretations.
The cast also includes Liz Livingston, Bob Arcaro, Lizabeth Allen, Elowyn Castle and Ja’Quawn Turner, some seamlessly playing several characters.
Sofia Piccolo Weichert’s costumes clearly define the characters, from the flowing outfits of Hippolyta to the khakis of the Jailer and his assistant and the sleek, sexy dresses for Emilia. Her approximation of knights’ armor is particularly clever. The ever-changing set by Jennifer Varbalow consists of potted plants and other small scene-setting items which, though mere suggestions, show imagination.
Shakespeare in the Parking Lot is utilizing two locations this season: the actual parking lot of The Clemente and Bryant Park (not a “parking lot,” but why be picky?). The latter site will utilize amplification.
The Two Noble Kinsmen (through July 30, 2021)
The Drilling Company’s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot
The Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, in Manhattan (July 15, 16, 17, 28, 29, 30, 2021)
Bryant Park, Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street, in Manhattan (July 19, 20, 21, 2021)
No reservations necessary
Running time: one hour and 45 minutes without an intermission