A silly king hands out political appointments willy-nilly in Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II, an Elizabethan thriller about gay king Edward (Gabrielle McCauley), whose infatuation with lowly Piers Gaveston (Catia) leads to a Civil War, a few betrayals, and a crowd-pleasingly gory finale. Over the years the play has inspired everyone from Bertolt Brecht to Derek Jarman, but Burbage Theatre Company’s saucy new production features women playing fourteen of the seventeen (mostly male) roles. This is actually not uncommon with Edward II; the first known production in the United States was an all-female staging at Barnard College in 1943.
Directed by Jeff Church, this production features three male actors staring ominously throughout the show, each waiting for his one big moment. The remainder of the cast is large and at several points it’s unclear which lord is switching sides, or why, though it doesn’t matter so much in the end. (The black/blue color coding with the costumes helped.) Focus instead on McCauley as the titular king, Valerie Westgate as his sinister queen, and Alison Russo as Mortimer, the scene-stealing nasty lord who tries to keep the king in order. Some of the show’s more intense moments crept towards camp, especially in the second half when the blood starts splattering. During previews the swordplay was unconvincingly hesitant; hopefully that will iron itself out over the show’s run.