QUEEN EDWARD, Wax Fruit Theatre Productions, at Chicago Dramatists Workshop. In the middle of Christopher Marlowe's Elizabethan tragedy Edward II, the almost universally hated lover of the king, Gaveston, is murdered by a gaggle of usurpatious earls. But in Brian McIntire's adaptation, Queen Edward, Gaveston "drowns" when his head is forced into an empty steel mixing bowl downstage center. The image is not only silly but an insult to an audience's intelligence. Are we supposed to believe Gaveston dies from looking too closely at his own reflection? Or from imagining his head is a mound of cookie dough?
This kind of improbability, which obliges an audience to mentally solve the problems the director couldn't, mars much of the production. Why does McIntire, who also directs, stage a half dozen realistic stabbing-and-slashing scenes but never include a drop of blood? Why are all the most powerful people in England--here updated to "U.K., Inc."--dressed like the wait staff from a slightly upscale trattoria? And why do these contemporary business types speak in blank verse? It takes a certain stylistic genius to wed corporate culture and Elizabethan English, as Michael Bogdanov demonstrates in his Timon of Athens across town. Here Marlowe's poetry is as stiff and unconvincing as McIntire's ungraceful staging, in which actors head off into the dark more often than not. --Justin Hayford