Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe made his name, at the age of 23, with Tamburlaine the Great in 1587. The sprawling, highly original dramatic work was presented by The Admiral's Men, with Edward Alleyn in the lead, and was a tremendous success — so much so that Marlowe wrote a second Tamburlaine play the next year.
Most theatregoers and scholars know the title of the play, but the drama — unlike the playwright's Edward II or Dr. Faustus — is rarely staged. This spring, the Off-Off-Broadway company Target Margin Theatre will attempt the titanic task of mounting both Tamburlaine plays. The production will be the centerpiece of the troupe's tenth anniversary season, which Target Margin has dedicated to the work of Marlowe. (The season began will a production of Dido, Queen of Carthage.) Performances run April 4-22 at the Present Company Theatorium.
Target Margin artistic director David Herskovitz has enlisted plenty of help to get Tamburlaine on its feet. Six directors in total will stage the piece, which will be spread over five nights. Each two-act evening has been given a separate subtitle. The set-up runs as follows:
• Evening 1: Tamburlaine the Great, Acts 1 and 2, directed by Village Voice critic and sometime performer, James Hannaham.
• Evening 2: Hexachloraphene, Acts 3 and 4, directed by Yuri Skujins, a frequent Target Margin actor recently seen in Stage Door at HERE.
• Evening 3: More Bloody Tales of Ruth, Acts 5 and 6, directed by James and Steven Ratazzi, the latter an Off-Off-Broadway acting staple.
• Evening 4: Three Fold World, Acts 7 and 8, directed by Susannah Gilbert.
• Evening 5: Pluto's Belles, Acts 9 and 10, directed by Hillary Specter.
Tamburlaine follows the travails of its overreaching title character, a shepherd turned great and power-hungry warrior, provoking admiration and revulsion simultaneously. The all-Marlowe season will continue with a series of staged readings, including Edward II, Hero and Leander and The Jew of Malta.
Tickets to Tamburlaine are $10. The Theatorium is located at 198 Stanton Street. For more information, call (212) 358-3657. For a schedule of performances, consult www.targetmargin.org.
—By Robert Simonson