The Castle. Atlantic Stage 2 (see Off Broadway). By Howard Barker. Directed by Richard Romagnoli. With Jan Maxwell, David Barlow, Jennifer Van Dyck. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
The Castle: in brief
The politically minded PTP/NYC returns for its 27th season with the premiere of a nastily funny play about the crusades, by the scabrous British auteur Howard Barker. The formidable Jan Maxwell leads a cast that also includes Jennifer Van Dyck and Quentin Maré; Richard Romagnoli directs. (The piece plays in rep with Serious Money.)
The Castle: theater review by Adam Feldman
Howard Barker’s 1985 epic, The Castle, is bracingly, thrillingly strange and dark. Ostensibly set in 12th-century England, but studded with transhistorical theatricality, the play begins with the homecoming of a group of Crusaders. Their leader, Stucley (the well-spoken Barlow), brings in tow an Arab architect named Krak (Quentin Maré, elegantly ironical)—a spoil of war, like Cassandra, but prized for his engineering rather than his body. During the men’s seven-year absence, the women they left behind, guided by the witch and widow Skinner (Maxwell), have reorganized the town into an anarchic agrarian commune, free from religion and shame; Stucley’s wife, the fecund Ann (a poised Van Dyck), has had children in his absence, and defies his attempt to reclaim her. The women’s earthy paradise must make way for Stucley’s new project—an elaborate fortress on a Babelian scale hitherto unconceived—and a fierce clash between the political and domestic spheres ensues. (An Englishman’s home may be his castle, but, as Krak points out, “The castle is not a house.”)
Shakespearean in scope, Brechtian in attitude and Jacobean in sensibility—one stroke of pitch-black comedy finds a woman condemned to drag around the rotting corpse of the man she has murdered—The Castle is a scabrous masterwork. And Richard Romagnoli’s revival for PTP/NYC does a very fine job of handling Barker’s snake: the sharp, venomed bite of the worldview; the muscular twists of dramatic form; the gleaming colored scales of the language, with its flourishes of diction and brutal profanity. First among equals in the strong ensemble, Maxwell roots the production in a pain that can’t be ignored. “Love is also a weapon,” Skinner insists, and The Castle does not shy from deploying it as such. Barker’s carnival is full of nasty ambush; go and prepare to be jabbed.—Theater review by Adam Feldman
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam
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