Rorschach Theatre turns in a gritty, muscular production of David Grimm’s tale of political intrigue and misplaced loyalty. The play elaborates upon the speculation that Christopher Marlowe, Elizabethan playwright renowned in his own time but fated to be eclipsed in posterity by William Shakespeare, was a secret agent to the Queen, acting under orders from Sir Francis Walsingham. Grimm offers an explanation for Marlowe’s murder, namely that it was an assassination entailed by the plotting of Protestant against Catholic in the late sixteenth century. Grimm’s script, set in modern English and by turns bawdy, fantastical, and contemplative, combines prose passages with sections set in verse (there’s nothing quite like a heroic couplet to let you know that a scene is over).
Adam Jonas Segaller attacks the title role with naked gusto, and shows us an interesting selection of vocal timbres. He leads a foursquare supporting cast of nine men. The rough-hewn two-level set by Eric Grims has the right feeling of precarious doom, but is perhaps not well matched with the various fluids that are spilled onstage in the course of the evening. The rich yet subtle sound design is by Veronica Lancaster. Costumes by Emily Dere are generally suggestive rather than in-period, maybe boots and a close-fitting jacket, but the on-a-budget approach works, and doesn’t get in the way of the swordplay (of two kinds).
- Kit Marlowe, by David Grimm, directed by Jessie R. Gallogly, Rorschach Theatre, Washington