Reviewed by JOHN LONGENBAUGH
The Duchess of Malfi
Open Circle is the fringe company that refuses to grow up, often with delightful results. Artistic director Ron Sandahl has adopted and instigated any number of quirky, chaotic, and potentially psychotic projects during his reign, including dramatized H.P. Lovecraft short stories, a zombie musical, and a charming narrative performed by adults but written by preschoolers, Are We Scared? So Open Circle’s a great choice to take on this seldom-performed tragedy by Shakespeare’s contemporary John Webster, a gory and bizarre revenge tragedy which includes psychotic priests, near incest, and—wait for it—lycanthropy. Despite such promising subject matter, the Jacobean verse often leads to productions that are dry as dust or just plain incomprehensible, but neither is likely with director John Kaufmann at the helm. Kaufmann’s best known for his amusingly subversive theater experiments like Line One and Starball, which combine audience participation and improv with a sophisticated use of technology. Watching him give this lyrical but at times frankly ridiculous script some 21st-century CPR should be worth the price of admission. Open Circle Theatre, 429 Boren Ave. N. 382-4250, www.octheater.com. $15. 8 p.m. Thurs.–Sat. Opens March 23; ends April 21.