Shakespeare may be a regular on New York shores, but how often do we get a cloak-and-dagger Restoration tragedy? Well, back in the 18th Century, Thomas Otway's 1682 play, Venice Preserv'd, was produced nearly as often as Shakespeare plays. Time may have shifted towards the Bard and away from Otway, but the Pearl Theatre Company will bring Otway's drama to Off-Broadway, opening Feb. 2.
In Venice, Jaffeir saves the beautiful Belvidera from drowning. They soon elope -- much to the consternation of her father, Priuli, a powerful Venetian Senator. Cut off without a penny, Jaffier vows to overthrow the corrupt government and kill those in power, placing him between honor and love.
Otway penned Preserv'd at a time when Whigs and Tories ducked and dodged political plots. According Backstage Theatre Guide," though Otway was tremendously popular in his time as "the tragedian of love," he died in poverty at age 33. Ironically, the Pearl Theatre's new space at Theatre 80 on St. Mark's Place, was leased from a family named Otway, who can trace their lineage back to the author.
Appearing in Venice at the Pearl on St. Mark's Place will be Robin Leslie Brown, Robert Hock, John Wylie, Bernard K. Addison, Konrad Aderer, David Adkins, Tara Blau, Hope Chernov, Joey Collins, Mark Giordano, Christopher Moore, Edward Seamon and Lex Woutas. Sets are by Robert Joel Schwartz, lighting by Stephen Petrilli, costumes by Murell Horton, sound by Robert Murphy.
Founded in 1982 by artistic director Shepard Sobel, the Pearl Theatre Company has produced over 60 mainstays of classical theatre. Their story is told in David Hapgood's book, published by Knopf, "Year Of The Pearl." For tickets ($18-$30) and information on Venice Preserv'd, which plays at the Pearl through March 8, call (212) 598-9802.
By the way, those interested in Restoration comedy might want to check out Jean Cocteau Repertory's production of Aphra Behn's The Lucky Chance, which runs to Feb. 28. For information on that production, please see Playbill On-Line's story, "NY's Cocteau Rep Restores Behn's Lucky Chance To Repertoire."
--By David Lefkowitz