Actor Christian Camargo plays one of the greatest, most dastardly and most mysterious playwrights in history—Christopher Marlowe—in the Public Theatre production of David Grimm's Kit Marlowe, but only for a little while longer. The play, which began previews Oct. 31 and opened on Nov. 19, will end on Dec. 3.
True to the high-living nature of the title character, Camargo's entrance is remarkable; he swings in from a rope, landing in front of the audience, stark naked (and remains so for some time).
Also in the cast are Keith David as Sir Walter Raleigh, Jon DeVries as Sir Francis Walsingham, Sam Trammell as Thomas Walsingham, Robert Sella as Essex, David Patrick Kelly as Poley, Craig Bockhorn, Bostin Christopher, Chris Kipiniak, Martin Rayner, Ned Stresen-Reuter and Richard Ziman as the actor, Edward Alleyn, who first interpreted many of Marlowe's greatest parts. Brian Kulick directs.
Kit Marlowe is a "raw, contemporary take" on the life of Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe, who, as the author Dr. Faustus, Tamburlaine and The Jew of Malta, influenced and rivaled Shakespeare. Little is known about Marlowe's life, but it is known that he worked as a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham, a scheming minister of Queen Elizabeth I. Francis' brother Thomas Walsingham, meanwhile, was Marlowe's patron. The playwright died in a quarrel over a bill in a Depford tavern at the age of 29 and many scholars believe that his death was linked to his secret doings as an agent.
Marlowe was also variously accused of atheism, blasphemy and sexual perversion. One-time Marlowe roommate, playwright Thomas Kyd (The Spanish Prisoner) called him "the very devil"; according to the Cambridge Guide to Theatre, Kyd's association with Marlowe resulted in the former being arrested for heresy. Kulick directed the successful production of A Winter's Tale in Central Park this past summer, a mounting that featured Keith David. Kelly was last seen as Waffles in the Roundabout Theatre Company rendition of Uncle Vanya, starring Sir Derek Jacobi.
Asked whether Grimm speculates on the circumstances surrounding Marlowe's death, Kulick told Playbill On-Line, "What he does is he lays out how Christopher Marlowe got to that place. By the end of the play, you know exactly how he ended up in that room. Why he decided to stay in that room or enter that room, he leaves up to the audience. He takes you step by step through Marlowe's life to show you how each step led to that place. And I think that's always going to be part of the mystery of anyone who dies young; how knowingly did they go into [their end]. It has an un Marlovian mystery to it; almost Shakespearean mystery." DeVries has appeared at the Public in A Flea Spare and Off Broadway in Sight Unseen. Trammell made his Broadway debut in Ah, Wilderness! as Lincoln Center Theater. Sella created the role of Clifford in Side Man Off-Broadway. Camargo appeared in Henry V, directed at the Public by Kulick.
--By Robert Simonson