The Malcontent

The true Duke of Genoa has lost his throne to the usurper Pietro, but returns to his corrupt court disguised as Malevole, a surly cynic seeking revenge with the only weapon he needs - his savage wit. Antaeus, L.A.'s classical theater company and winner of the Los Angeles Drama Critic's Circle Award for Outstanding Season for 2010, opens its second full season with John Marston's rarely produced masterpiece, The Malcontent. Four gala openings of the fully double-cast production, two with each cast, take place May 5, 6, 7 and 8, with performances continuing through June 19. Low-priced previews begin April 28. Antaeus is located at 5112 Lankershim Blvd. (inside Deaf West Theatre) in the NoHo Arts District.

In John Marston's shocking, funny, filthy, and surprising tour de force, the former Duke of Genoa takes the disguise of the outrageous Malevole (the titular Malcontent) to spy on the corrupt foibles of the new Duke and his unctuous cronies. Disguises, false deaths, seductions, deceptions, and adulteries all drive the plot of this enormously entertaining play.

"It's a wickedly funny, very dangerous piece that is almost never done," explains director Elizabeth Swain. "I knew that Antaeus would be the company that could pull it off. When you double cast, the idea is that the actors will feed off each other in rehearsal, making each individual performance much more layered and textured than if the play were single cast. That's what's happening here. The Antaeus actors are brilliantly inventive. The excitement in rehearsals is unbelievable."

Often categorized as a revenge play, The Malcontent is reminiscent of Shakespeare's Hamlet and Measure for Measure and, like the latter, is one of the first English tragicomedies. While it shares many elements such as deceit, betrayal, disguises, and attempted murder found in similar works of the period, it lacks the brutality that characterizes these plays. Clever, terrifying, and disconcertingly amusing, this significant work by the great rebel genius of Jacobean theater is one of the most original plays of its time - complex in genre, structure, and language.

"The Malcontent was the sleeper hit of last summer's ClassicsFest," comments Antaeus artistic director Jeanie Hackett. "Audiences loved it. We knew right away that we wanted to do a full production."

John Marston (1576-1634) is widely considered an important and influential dramatist and satirist of the Jacobean period, with The Malcontent regarded as his best-known work. One of the most significant plays of the English Renaissance, Marston's masterpiece (1604) was one of the first tragicomedies written in English. Often categorized as a revenge play, The Malcontent is a fabulous study of courtly intrigue, lust, and betrayal. A major reason for the play's preeminence lies in the balance it achieves between the opposite claims of laughter and horror and its scathing attack on the court of James I and the immorality of his courtiers. The play was first performed by the Children of the Chapel, one of the troupes of boy actors active in the era, in the Blackfriars Theatre. It was later taken over by the King's Men, the adult company for which William Shakespeare worked, and performed at the Globe Theatre. During the Restoration and through the 18th century, the play was unperformed, but revived in 1850 at the Olympic Theatre in London. Although Marston's career as a writer lasted only a decade, his work is remembered for its energetic and often obscure style, its contributions to the development of a distinctively Jacobean style in poetry, and its idiosyncratic vocabulary.

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