Tamburlaine, Parts I & II OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Credit Sara Krulwich
  • NY TIMES

  • DAILY NEWS

  • EW

  • TM

  • L&S AMERICA

Opening Night:
November 1, 2014
Closing:
January 4, 2015

Theater: Polonsky Shakespeare Center / 262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Synopsis: 

A Scythian shepherd of ferocious will rises to power to become king of half the world. An epic spectacle first performed in 1587 to wildly popular acclaim, the last major New York production of Tamburlaine was in 1956 on Broadway. Now, audiences have a rare chance to see this disturbingly modern masterpiece. Directed by Michael Boyd, four-time Olivier Award winner and former Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and starring OBIE and Drama Desk winner John Douglas Thompson, Tamburlaine, Parts I and II is a fast-paced 3-hour event plus one 30-minute intermission with food service and pre-ordering available.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Tamburlaine, Parts I & II

    It’s Best Not to Make Him Angry

    Ben Brantley

    November 18, 2014: The mass-murdering title character of Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, a man proud to call himself “the scourge of God,” has never been big on apologies. Not for him the regretful introspection of short-tempered Shakespearean tyrants like Macbeth, Lear or even nasty old Richard III. Self-knowledge, who needs it? Being a world conqueror means never having to say you’re sorry. It feels only fitting that Michael Boyd’s improbably enjoyable Tamburlaine, Parts I and II, which opened on Sunday night at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, should make no excuses for its redemption-proof hero or for the long and bloody plays over which he rules. Embodied by a truly titanic John Douglas Thompson in this Theater for a New Audience production, Tamburlaine is a force of nature in the sense that typhoons, tidal waves and earthquakes are. Would you ever try to explain why such phenomena behave as they do? All you can do is sit back open-mouthed, observing the carnage and ducking the flying body parts. Now who, you might ask, could possibly be entertained by such a sorry, gory epic of unrelenting destruction, in which power-crazed narcissists scramble for supremacy? Well, you might want to check the recent most-watched television and movie lists, or talk to the legions who binge on Game of Thrones.

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  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF Tamburlaine, Parts I & II

    John Douglas Thompson stars in Christopher Marlowe's seldom-seen bloody classic at Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    November 18, 2014: This melodrama begins with a noisy belch, which leads to the cr-r-acking sound of a neck being snapped. That’s the first two minutes. And the body count quickly rises from there in Tamburlaine, Parts I and II, at Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn. Christopher Marlowe’s play captivated audiences in the 1580s. The last time the show was done in New York was in 1956 on Broadway — as Tamburlaine the Great. Today, this seldom-done saga of savagery and the madness of war is all too timely. Edited by Michael Boyd, who directs with bold, stylish flourishes, and led by a charismatic John Douglas Thompson in the title role, the 31/2-hour presentation (it takes a half hour to swab up the stage between parts) makes for a memorable, visceral and, eventually, repetitive and fatiguing experience.

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  • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW OF Tamburlaine, Parts I & II

    Tamburlaine, Parts I and II Review

    Joe McGovern

    November 18, 2014: When staging a 427 year-old drama, acknowledging the audience is a crucial trick for keeping them alert. In this mammoth adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's 1587 war epic Tamburlaine, Parts I and II, murderers roam through the aisles and make eye contact with people in the crowd. A king appears with a half-eaten leg of chicken in his mouth and passes it off to someone in the front row. And in a self-referential joke plump with irony, that same king (Paul Lazar) whips out the show's Playbill from his jacket pocket and scolds the audience for not following the plot, mimicking our sneak-reading-by-stage-light of the play's synopsis. Indeed, this rare NYC production of Marlowe's neglected two-parter (running through Dec. 21 at Theatre for a New Audience's magnificent Polonsky Shakespeare Center), is occasionally indecipherable to the point of mental surrender. What is said to have been a scandalous narrative in the Elizabethan age now seems stale and ludicrously repetitive. But as with an overripe opera, the words here are not exactly the thing. The rewards of this gnarly, muscular production—edited and directed by Michael Boyd and headlined by the monumental John Douglas Thompson—come from the retrofitting of Marlowe's jumbled text into a dark, cracked fantasy of carnage and revenge.

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF Tamburlaine, Parts I & II

    Theatre for a New Audience presents a powerful new mounting of Christopher Marlowe's epic play, for the first time in a major New York production in 58 years

    Zachary Stewart

    November 18, 2014: In a central square of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where once stood a bust of Karl Marx, a giant statue of the 14th-century conqueror Amir Timur (or Tamerlane), astride a horse, threatens to cut down any challengers. By all estimates, millions of people died as a result of Tamerlane's brutal campaigns. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, however, Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov has sought to elevate Tamerlane to the position of national hero, drawing not-too-subtle parallels between the infamous butcher and himself. You might wonder why any sane leader would want to invoke the memory of so murderous a historical figure, but after viewing Theatre for a New Audience's excellent production of Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine, Parts I and II, you'll have a good idea why. Six hundred years after his death (and over 400 years after Marlowe wrote his breakthrough play), Tamerlane's legend still has the ability to inspire fear and admiration, disgust and pride. Written in 1587 (and only vaguely historically accurate), Marlowe's play eloquently captures the ambivalence surrounding the figure of Tamerlane. Part I charts his meteoric rise, starting with his first great victory over Persia. After defeating the foolish King Mycetes (a very funny Paul Lazar) and placing Mycetes' treacherous brother Cosroe (Saxon Palmer) on the Persian throne, Scythian warrior Tamburlaine (John Douglas Thompson) double-crosses Cosroe and takes the crown for himself. He makes captured Egyptian princess Zenocrate (Merritt Janson) his queen, then moves against the immensely powerful Turkish Emperor Bajazeth (Chukwudi Iwuji) and his 15 tributary kings. These men of noble birth scoff at the notion that they could fall to a nobody from the barren steppes, but Tamburlaine has the last laugh when he leads them away in chains. "The god of war resigns his room to me, / Meaning to make me general of the world," he declares, believing himself to be more powerful than any god.

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  • LIGHTING AND SOUND AMERICA REVIEW OF Tamburlaine, Parts I & II

    Theatre in Review: Tamburlaine, Parts I and II

    David Barbour

    November 18, 2014: Drums pound, armies assemble, and blood comes raining down -- quite literally -- in Michael Boyd's staging of Tamburlaine, Christopher Marlowe's epic melodrama of conquest and revenge. It has been nearly 60 years since Anthony Quayle stepped onto the stage of the Winter Garden Theatre as Marlowe's savage, world-dominating protagonist, and it is easy to see why we have had no Tamburlaine since then: the text features convoluted narrative and scene upon scene of pillage and slaughter, and a decent staging requires a stunningly gifted leading man, a large company of actors capable of pounding Marlowe's words into plausible weapons of war, and a director who can shape the sprawling narrative into a coherent evening. All three requirements are met, and then some, in this extraordinary production. The title character finds an ideal impersonator in John Douglas Thompson. It has become commonplace to refer to Thompson as one of our finest classical actors; with this performance, it's time to remove the qualifier. Thompson uses his enormous stage presence to create an implacable warrior who destroys entire nations without once looking back. Dismissed early on as "that sturdy Scythian thief," he applies a cold logic of mass murder to the pursuit of "the sweet fruition of an earthly crown;" next to him, Shakespeare's Richard III is the shy, retiring type. Whether casually breaking the neck of an impertinent servant; removing a bloody, poisoned crown from the head of a rival; or using the back of a prostrate rival as a stepping stone, he is every inch "the scourge and wrath of God, the only fear and terror of the world."

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