What comedy divine from blank verse springsWhen Judith Shakespeare's fairest Comp'ny brings A play-in-mostly-verse, by Hagen, Paul Of Pope's Rape of the Lock, to that great hall Known as the Duo, in East Fourth Street fair! Through Pope's old words they've blown some fresh new air.
Here, Pope's the narrator, and matches wits With actors playing Lock, and pitches fits. His off-stage-left critique is first intrusive Declining, later on, into “abusive.” Pope's view of humankind's not optimistic, So in the flesh he's sadomasochistic.
They've cast as heroine Belinda (she Of threatened curl) one who in truth's a “he” (John Forkner.) Pope himself's played by a “she”: Miss Littlestone--Soul of Hilarity! Her Pope sneers--he's a misanthropic grouch-- Whilst Forkner's 'Linda lolls upon a couch Set in a set made decadently garish By cloth of gold worth half a wealthy parish.
(In keeping with a Judith Shakes tradition Some girls play boys; boys girls: for the position Of gender in this world is social -- learned. That's shown true when the roles are thus o'erturned.)
Paul Hagen's “Popish” language is delightful: His Seussic verse is comic and insightful. He vivisects the paranoid A. Pope Who with "improvisation" cannot cope. (When one bold actor adds to “nymph” an “-o” Repeatedly, it causes quite a row.)
Lock's play-within-a-play recounts the tale Of Goldilocks (Belinda), red-lipped, pale Who to her joy and horror, is pursued By one too-rakish, scissors-wielding, rude And popular (unfortunately) Baron (Played by Miss V. Morosco, who does dare one To think she's somehow channeling James Dean And Malkovich's Valmont: suave, and mean.)
With sharp tableaux Jane Titus smartly blocks The action well, engaging as she mocks Pope's vanities, and his renowned creation. Miss Darling's costumes show smart combination Of Pope's time's clothes and ours: gowns, frock coats, bows One pair of bluejeans, plus, perched on one nose A pair of plastic glasses. When the play Is mostly over, the actors suddenly break into a more realist prose style, gang up on Pope, and struggle for control of the story.
This twist is not exactly original: it reminded this reviewer of the scene in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods in which the disgruntled fairytale characters violently gang up on their smug, self-distanced Narrator. After Lock's coup de cast, the script goes on perhaps a few minutes too long.
Ultimately, however, The Rape of the Lock is a riotously fun evening, equally likely to amuse and provoke both the original poem's fans and critics, as well as the uncommitted and uninitiated. As The Rape of the Lock is the first full production derived from the Judith Shakespeare Company's Resurgence new adaptations development program, I look forward to encountering the next product.