Rorschach Theatre's Kit Marlowe

As an actor, it is great fun when you get to play a character that is given a grand, attention-grabbing entrance. Well, the entrance of the eponymous character in David Grimm’s Kit Marlowe wins the prize. Moments into Rorschach Theatre’s current production (directed by Jessie R. Gallogly), Adam Jonas Segaller bursts onto the stage dripping wet and completely naked. He runs around, swings down on a rope, and begins an energetic and winning performance.

As Marlowe, Segaller makes Joseph Fiennes’ Bard looks like a pansy (It’s okay Shakey, I still love you). David Grimm takes the morsels of fact and conjecture about Marlowe’s life and forms a play that perhaps is only slightly more accurate than Shakespeare in Love (which is to say, not at all). But, on the other hand, Grimm could be completely right. We’ll probably never know, so we might as well enjoy the ride.

As Grimm tells it, Marlowe is in such dire need of money that he convinces his friend Thomas Walsingham to introduce him to his uncle, Sir Francis Walsingham. Francis Walsingham is the Queen’s spymaster, and Marlowe enters into a Faustian agreement with him. Things spin out of Marlowe’s control when Walsingham demands that he find evidence against Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh is Marlowe’s hero, and he is accordingly resistant to destroy him. Marlowe struggles to get beyond the power of Walsingham, resulting in his own death at the young age of 29.

Grimm creates a Marlowe that is full of life and wonder, a man who dreams big, and is determined to be great, whatever the cost. For the play to work, the audience has to be drawn in by the actor playing Marlowe, and Segaller definitely fits the bill. In fact, Segaller carries the play, and is the reason to see this production.

The rest of the players are extremely uneven. Tony Bullock (Earl of Essex and Hency Percy) and Reece Thornbery (Edward Alleyn, Anthony Babington, Thomas Harriott) are unconvincing in all of their roles. William Aitken seems to be miscast as Sir Walter Raleigh. While he brings a sense of vulnerability to the role, there is no sense of greatness or power to his bearing. Matt Dunphy is so stiff as Thomas Walsingham that it seems to come from the actor and not the character. The “bad guys” are better, and all seem to be having more fun with their roles. John Brennan is eerie as Sir Francis Walsingham, and his two henchman, Lee Ordeman as Robert Poley and Nick Stevens as Nicholas Skeres, are also quite good.

Grimm has crafted an exciting play. The language is flowery which often adds to the setting and tone, but sometimes is too much for the actors. The play is full of delightful references for those who know Marlowe and his work. They are worked into the script quite well, and are never overbearing. Grimm wisely avoids overshadowing his Marlowe with constant references to Shakespeare. There is just one, near the end, in which Marlowe professes to having seen a beautiful play by a man from Stratford.

Add it all up and it is an enjoyable, exciting night of theatre. Much of the credit for the excitement must be given to Fight Choreographer Casey Kaleba. This element unfortunately went unmentioned in all other reviews I’ve read. Kaleba creates violent, believable fights in an incredibly small space. Though familiar with Marlowe’s death, that moment still managed to elicit a gasp from me. Kudos to Kaleba and the actors for pulling off every bloody moment successfully.

3 stars
through December 2nd


Anonymous said…
Segaller was wonderful but the word on the streets in the Theater community is that he was a royal pain in the ass to work with once the reviews came out. He kept on changing things to "amuse" himself according to members of the cast. Numerous members of the cast have made it clear that they could not wait to get done with the show as it had become unbearable to work with Segaller with all his added double takes, changed blocking, imitations of John Wayne, I shit you not I saw him do this the night I was there and was wondering what he was up to and other assorted things he did just to make the audience laugh and amuse himself instead of performing the show he had rehearsed.

I heard all this from a good friend who was in the cast after the show had closed. His ended the conversation with:

"Every night I wanted to just end the play by stabbing that asshole in the eye myself"


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