In the world of Shakespeare scholars there are many rumblings as to the actual authorship of “Double Falsehood.” However, much of that seems to have been quelled when the authoritative Arden edition of Shakespeare’s plays added it last year. It is believed by many to be a version of Cardenio, a lost play by the Bard and John Fletcher that was rediscovered and adapted in the 18th century by Lewis Theobald.
Be that as it may, let the scholarly fight their battle and debate as CSC (Classic Stage Company) under the direction of Brian Kulick mounts the first professional production after 250 years.
Brought into a more contemporary setting in 1930s dress, attitude, staging and set design, the double falsehood referenced is committed by the sinister Henriquez, played by Slate Holmgren, a lying, snake-in-the-grass character, just the type audiences love to hate. This tragicomedy is about Duke Camillo’s (Philip Goodwin) evil son, Henriquez, who professes love and is in pursuit of a proposed marriage to the virtuous Violante (Mackenzie Meehan), but rapes her instead and sets his sights upon his friend Julio’s (Clayton Apgar) beloved Leonora, sweet cherub Hayley Treider, tricking Julio by sending him away on a mission in order to pursue his lust and seduction of Leonora. This is the double falsehood.
Cross-dressing is not unusual, as Violante wanders as a shepherd boy seeking the now distraught and enraged Julio in an effort to right the wrong that has been perpetrated. Henriquez’ dutiful brother Roderick (Bryce Gill) aids in doing the right thing. Leonora’s crusty father Don Bernardo (Jon Devries),maintains his insistence on a daughter’s obedience while The Duke utters words that bring spontaneous audience laughter: “The voice of parents is the voice of Gods.”
The change of scenes is accomplished as the multi-carpets strewn on the bare stage are lifted and laid in different positions; the backdrop also a series of hanging carpets. Scenic and Costume Design by Oana Botez-Ban, Lighting Design by Brian H. Scott with original music and sound by Christian Frederickson.
The cast is strong, especially sinister Slate Holmgren who displays the humorous touches as needed, along with Clayton Apgar and Mackenzie Meehan, albeit Hayley Treider occasionally speaks much too quickly, and one wonders about the ending, which I won’t give away. Director, Brian Kulick, in his eighth season, is surely returning theatre to its classic roots.
Shakespearean lovers will be streaming to CSC and have much to debate for a long time to come as to whether it is “a piece of fraudulence” or irrefutable Bard.
CSC, 136 East 13th Street 212 352-3101 www.classicstage.org through April 3rd.