Hoosier Bard: Arden of Fevershame 

click to enlarge A promo photo of the leads in Arden of Fevershame.
  • A promo photo of the leads in Arden of Fevershame.

There are at least three ways to enjoy this fascinating "new" theatre piece: as a Shakespeare nut, a true crime fan or a devotee of local professional actors.

Did William Shakespeare write part of this play, first printed in 1592 and long attributed to the prolific Anonymous? Maybe. The language, especially, makes me think of him. Not just because the characters say things like "wherefore" instead of "why," but because there are phrases that make me ache from the beauty of their poetry. And because there are some humdingers of insults. A true Shakespeare groupie would probably also be able to pick out similarities to subsequent Shakespeare plays.

But whether you care about Shakespeare or not, the story is edge-of-your-seat interesting. It's based on a love-and-lust murder that really happened in the 1500s, enriched by a legend based on a curse. And it's dark and violent, with great fight choreography, but funny, too, because the murderers are so serious about their narcissism in the name of love.

Director Terri Bourus and the large cast - a nice mix of professional actors and students - make it easy to understand what's happening. Several offer particularly nuanced work, which is a treat in and of itself.

Jaddy Ciucci, for example, is formidable as Alice Arden, the privileged yet dissatisfied wife. It's also intriguing to see someone like Ben Asaykwee - perhaps best known for his bawdy, eye-winking roles - play a weary assassin-for-hire who's just doing his best to stay menacing and get the job done.

The actors don't ever fully leave the set except at intermission, which allows for breathless pacing and makes the two hours fly by.

So... four stars for a fascinating show. Why not five? A few of the acting choices and one or two of the costumes didn't work for me. Also I'm still trying to decide if the set is simply a good-enough clutter hampered by venue limitations - or a brilliantly layered homage to the production's many influences.

In any case, I'd like to see this "new" show again.

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