Play Commentary and Review: Dress Rehearsal of The White Devil

It was nice to finally see this play in its entirety. The previous rehearsals did not make much sense because the actors were working on the last scene, 5.6. Unlike The Rover, which I had trouble following, my lack of familiarity with this play did not hinder my ability to understand what was going on.
This play was intense from beginning to end. And the intensity just kept building, an endless stream of rising action until the final scene. There did not seem to be a climax because the final scene had a bunch of death, like any other tragedy. The death was the falling action, but it did not do much to resolve the conflict in the play. When Giovanni says “He turned murderer! Away with them to prison and to torture. All that have hands in this shall taste our justice, as I hope heaven,” it seems to add more to the plot so that the play cannot be over just yet (5.6, 287-290). But when the audience thinks about it, with most of the characters dead at this point, not much more can happen. So I guess one could say that the conflicts have been resolved, but death is no way to resolve things.
I was impressed by Bridget Rue’s portrayal of Isabella. Like the rest of the play, the separation of Brachiano and Isabella was anything but warm and fuzzy. When Isabella was crying because she was upset about the separation, the scene became emotionally charged while keeping its seriousness. It made Bridget seem more feminine than she had as Florinda in The Rover.
I was also intrigued by the separation itself. To break it off, Brachiano tells Isabella “Henceforth, I’ll never lie with thee, by this, this wedding ring: I’ll ne’er more lie with thee” (2.1, 194-195). Later in the same scene, Isabella responds to Brachiano: “Henceforth, I’ll never lie with you, by this, this wedding-ring” (2.1, 253-254). I find it interesting that Isabella throws Brachiano’s own words back at him.
As usual, Allison Glenzer had a great performance because she was able to passionate quickly. When Marcello dies in 5.2, his mother Cornelia weeps over his body, refusing to believe he is dead: “Alas, he is not dead: he’s in a trance. Why here’s nobody shall get anything by his death. Let me call him again, for God’s sake” (5.2, 27-29). Carlo interjects with “I would you were deceived” (5.2, 30). Cornelia turns on him, now angry as well as sad: “O you abuse me, you abuse me, you abuse me. How many have gone away thus for lack of tendance; rear up’s head, rear up’s head; his bleeding inward will kill him” (5.2, 31-33). Allison went from sad to angry and back again without missing a beat.
It was clear that everyone was still working out the kinks; the actors used “prithee” a lot. One aspect of the play that had been worked out by the time of the dress rehearsal was the stage combat in the final scene. Half way through the final rehearsal before Wednesday’s dress rehearsal, Benjamin Reed, actor and resident expert in such stunts, pointed out some safety issues and suggested other actors’ positions so that the audience would get the best view of the action. All of his suggested changes were implemented in the dress rehearsal, and the scene flowed very well.


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