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New York Theater

'Tis Pity She's a Whore

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In John Ford's " 'Tis Pity She's a Whore," youthful impetuousness clashes fatally with society's moral precepts, which themselves have been warped by the corruption and arrogance of an older generation. It's a rich play and it's always interesting to see how young companies choose to interpret it.

For his production, director Alex Lippard has assembled a company of performers from across generations that should electrically collide as a brother and sister's doomed love affair plays out. Unfortunately, as soon as Martin T. Lopez's costumes, which mix periods haphazardly, and Michael V. Moore's plain set design are revealed, we see that this production will play out with a dispiriting lack of focus.

Lippard has not chosen to focus on either the chauvinism in Ford's patriarchal world or the characters' exuberant sexuality. At the play's center are the siblings Giovanni (Colby Chambers) and Annabella (Rachel Matthews Black), who are played as callow youths rather than spirited if forbidden lovers. Black's performance, though, develops hints of fire, particularly after Annabella, pregnant with her brother's child, has been forced into marrying Soranzo (a keenly self-entitled and vicious Mauricio Tafur Salgado). These two turns, however, are not enough to ground the production.

Sporadically, a performance surfaces that grabs the audience, particularly Cameron Folmar's mincing fop, Bergetto, who enlivens the piece immeasurably. Also of note are Helmar Augustus Cooper's twin roles as Giovanni's confessor and Bergetto's uncle. He brings a grand gravitas to the play, a trait sadly lacking in Craig Braun's wooden portrayal of Florio, Annabella and Giovanni's father.

Most tellingly, we never thrill to the Machiavellian plots of the vengeful woman spurned by Soranzo (played by the estimable but underutilized Catherine Curtin) and his servant (direly underplayed by John Douglas Thompson). Unfortunately, as with the rest of this " 'Tis Pity," one simply waits for these characters' untimely demises.

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