Coming soon to the University of South Carolina Lab Theatre Stage: A production written in the time of Shakespeare with the dark humor of a Coen brothers movie.
Full Circle Productions and the University of South Carolina Department of Theatre and Dance will present the rarely staged Elizabethan-era play "Arden of Faversham" from Thursday, June 14, through Saturday, June 23, at the USC Lab Theatre.
Full Circle Productions is a company of professional artists with rich ties to Columbia. The company is dedicated to producing live performances that deal with social justice and support diversity and making art that is graphic and eloquent, visceral and articulate, provocative and celebratory.
First printed in 1592 by a writer who remains anonymous, "Arden of Faversham" dramatizes the true story of the plot to murder the greedy landowner Thomas Arden.
The would-be assassins? His wife, Alice, and her arrogant secret lover, Mosby. They set in motion a series of increasingly complicated (and hilarious) assassination attempts, leading to a final scheme that threatens to lead all involved to a deadly fate.
Despite its age, modern audiences are likely find a familiar brand of comedy in the show. A Telegraph review of the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2014 production described it as "reminiscent of films ... by Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers."
Director Robert Richmond, a USC professor who also has produced inventively staged Shakespearean plays, describes "Arden" as “absolute comedy from beginning to end.”
“The style of this production is somewhere close to movies like 'Snatch' and 'Sexy Beast,'” he says. “All of these characters are loathsome in some way or other, and they’re all culpable for the decisions they make. This play appeals to the darker side of most people’s nature, but in a really humorous way.”
Richmond says that while the design of the production is recognizably modern, the original language of the play, written in blank verse and prose, remains intact. Over the years, scholars have never settled on who wrote the script, attributing its possible authorship to notable writers of the time such as Shakespeare or Christopher Marlowe.
In addition to his interest in tackling a mysterious work from the Shakespearean era, the director says he was also intrigued by the freedom inherent in staging a largely unknown work.
“I thought about what it might be like to focus one’s imagination and creativity into a play that feels new in many ways,” he says, “and to not have to be reverential or look back at past productions to move forward. It’s been very freeing for the company as a whole.”
An ultimate goal, he adds, would be to take the production to a much wider audience.
“I wanted to create something that could definitely be mobile, but also be sold to regional rep theaters as something that would both benefit the University of South Carolina and move Full Circle forward into creating work that can be seen on a national level.”
Richmond has experience doing just that. His "A Tale Told by an Idiot," an adaptation of "Macbeth," was workshopped at USC in 2008 before moving on to performances at Lincoln Center and the Hollywood Fringe Festival.
Appearing in the production are Full Circle company members Hunter Boyle (Thomas Arden), Jennifer Moody Sanchez (Alice), Andrew Schwartz (Mosby), Katrina Blanding (Mistress Reede), Kelsie Hensley (Susan Mosby), Lindsey Rae Taylor (Big Will), and Terrance Henderson (Franklyn), plus UofSC theatre students Kaleb Edward Edley (Bradshaw) John Romanski(Shakebag), and Will Hollerung (Michael). Nate Terracio is Production Designer and Elizabeth Jennings is the show’s Stage Manager.
“This show plays into the times we live in now,” says Richmond. “It involves a woman who is harassed mentally and physically inside her marriage, who seeks an alternative way of life. And then it lampoons that very thing.”
If you go
"Arden of Faversham"
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays from June 14 through June 23.
WHERE: USC Lab Theatre, 1400 Wheat St., on the first floor of the Booker T. Washington building.
TICKETS: $10 at the door. No advance tickets.