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A CurtainUp Review
Double Falsehood

We know there was a play called Cardenio written by Shakespeare and Fletcher and performed in the theatrical season of 1612-1613. We know that because there are two entries in the king's treasurer's payments made to the actors who performed in the play.— Brean Hammond, Editor, The Arden Shakespeare.
Clayton Apgar, MacKenzie Meehan
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
In scholarly quarters, Double Falsehood is gaining acceptance as an authentic version of the long lost Cardenio, attributed to William Shakespeare and John Fletcher. The East Village's Classic Stage Company claims that theirs is the first professional production of this play since it was first adapted for the stage by Lewis Theobald more than 250 years ago.

Double Falsehood centers on an irresponsible and irascible young aristocrat, Henriquez (Slate Holmgren), who wrecks havoc on the lives of young maidens and their families with his unbridled libido. He becomes infatuated with a young maid of lower birth, Leonora (Hayley Treider), whose father, Don Bernardo (Jon DeVries), is so eager to marry into nobility that he willfully overlooks Henriquez's many flaws and the fact that his daughter is really in love with the dedicated and loyal Julio (Clayton Apgar).

For the most part, Director Brian Kulick sticks faithfully to the script. He gives lovers Julio and Leonora a bit more amorous license than the script appears to call for, but that's a minor quibble. The acting is strong. Mr. DeVries is robust, commanding and comedic as Leonora's father, Don Bernardo. Mr. Holmgren is the production's standout as Henriquez, balancing his character's sinister, naïve, bumbling, and insincere aspects to terrific effect. Ms. Treider as Lenora is particularly expressive with her body language and somehow illustrates her lines physically. And MacKenzie Meehan as the ravaged Violante transforms herself admirably from a young maid to a shepherd boy, living in disguised and humiliated exile in the countryside.

Oana Botez-Ban, working double duty as both scenic and costume designer, makes some odd but bold choices. Actors wear tuxedos, suits, and military garb from I don't know when. Her set design is uncomplicated: an array of Persian rugs hangs from the back wall of the stage, indicating simple, understated regalness. The strategy keeps the set bare bones and probably within budget; there are no additional props, despite the play's various settings: a royal palace, a village, and a pasture are just some of them. And, at times, Brian Scott's imaginative lighting makes the rugs appear almost translucent.

Less effective, however, is Director Kulick's group of scene changers, actors in trench coats and fedoras who drag three similar rugs around on the floor and organize them variously. The rugs are rather large and unwieldy, and no matter how gracefully the men drag them, the result is occasional first act distraction.

Even casual consumers of Shakespearean theater will find Double Falsehood's language rougher, less eloquent and perhaps even less clever than what they might ordinarily expect of the Bard. (It is believed that the play's final version retained more of Fletcher's lines in an attempt to make Shakespeare more accessible to Restoration audiences). All in all, though, Double Falsehood is a sturdy production. Contemporary audiences might be perplexed by the ending, but Double Falsehood is ultimately a play about grief, trauma, heartbreak, and family reconciliation.

But is it really "Shakespeare?" We may never know for certain. Scholars believe that he had more than a minor hand in its creation. Why not judge for yourself? You'll be one of those lucky few to have seen a professional production of this play in many generations.

Double falsehood
By William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, adapted by Lewis Theobald
Directed by Brian Kulick
Cast: Bryce Gill (Roderick/Citizen/Shepherd), Philip Goodwin (Duke/Camillo/Shepherd), Clayton Apgar (Julio), Hayley Treider (Leonora), Jon DeVries (Don Bernardo), Slate Holmgren (Henriquez), MacKenzie Meehan (Violante)
Set Design: Oana Botez-Ban
Costume Design: Oana Botez-Ban
Lighting Design: Brian H. Scott
Sound Design and Original Music: Christian Frederickson
Stage Manager: Andrea Wales
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes (with one ten minute intermission)
Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th Street,
From 3/12/11; opening 3/22/11; closing 4/3/11
Performance schedule Tues. - Sat. @ 8pm, Sunday @ 2pm (matinee)
Reviewed by William Coyle, based on 3/18/11 performance
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