Adaptation, cast are tops




'Lorenzaccio' review


Date published: 1/27/2005

WASHINGTON--Seduction, intrigue, murder. Melodrama sprawls across The Shakespeare Theatre stage in "Lorenzaccio" by Alfred de Musset.

De Musset was a 19th-century French Romantic, and his brooding hero, totally absorbed by his own emotions, reflects that mind-set. Additionally, "Lorenzaccio" is set in the Machiavellian atmosphere of 16th-century Florence, so there are a depraved tyrant, plots, betrayals, death and despair. What an opera this would make!

The convoluted plot is based on fact: Lorenzino de Medici did assassinate his cousin, Alessandro de Medici, Duke of Florence, in 1537. And it is possible that he did so in the hope of restoring republican government to the city. Lorenzino, called Lorenzaccio by de Musset, was a sort of Scarlet Pimpernel, pretending to be Alessandro's boon companion while plotting his death.

It is also true that the Strozzi family was strongly opposed to the rule of Alessandro.

In the play, there are plots and counterplots, and much talk about breathing the air of freedom. In the end, Lorenzaccio kills the duke, but the people fail to rise up and restore the republic. Another tyrant is installed in his place, and Lorenzaccio is killed by a rival plotter.

As translated and adapted by John Strand, "Lorenzaccio" has plenty of humor, as well as intrigue and breast beating. Strand has done a fine job of laying out de Musset's characters for us to ponder and of weaving the various plot strands together convincingly.

The excellence of the adaptation is only one element of a top-notch production. The cast is universally commendable, with particular nods to Robert Cuccioli as Alessandro, Jeffrey Carlson as Lorenzaccio, Ted van Griethuysen as Philip Strozzi, Chandler Vinton as Countess Cibo and Michael Rudko as the manipulative Cardinal Cibo.

Director Michael Kahn keeps the pace crisp and the action convincing. One does have to wonder, however, if it is totally necessary for Carlson to be quite so hysterical. Granted this is an unstable young man working himself up to the act of murder. Nevertheless, there seemed to be altogether too much arm-waving and flapping of sleeves. And what is with the shirttails hanging out? A badge of dissolution?

Scenery and costumes are right out of the top drawer. Ming Cho Lee has done an extraordinary job of crafting a set that can encompass 26 different scenes without a hitch. It's a marvel to behold. And Murrell Horton's beautiful costumes look as if they'd been taken straight from a Renaissance painting.

De Musset is not Shakespeare, not by a long shot. However, his play about power and politics in 16th-century Florence is certainly intriguing. And given the excellent production by The Shakespeare Theatre, it's well worth seeing.

To reach LUCIA ANDERSON: 540/374-5405

Date published: 1/27/2005 Copyright 2004, The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. of Fredericksburg, Va.