Great Acting Can't Save "Dido, Queen of Carthage"

The final instalment in this year's Actors' Renaissance Season at the Blackfriars Playhouse will — simply because of timing — receive the fewest performances.

That's not altogether a bad thing. While I am a great fan of Christopher Marlowe, I have discovered I am not an unswerving one. "Dido, Queen of Carthage," was Marlowe's first major work and is undoubtedly the least interesting of any I have seen. Nearly every source I can find says it is "rarely performed."

Some plays should probably just remain so.

Right out of the gate I need to lay this less-than-enthusiastic review at the feet of the playwright and not at those of the performers. The cast of "Dido, Queen of Carthage," expels a heroic amount of energy and talent in this fundamentally dull play. Especially memorable in the title role is Sarah Fallon, who uses every molecule of her considerable appeal and stage presence to give us a living, breathing and sympathetic character.

Rene Thornton Jr. who plays her love interest, Aeneas, also delivers up an authoritative performance, as is his custom. The chemistry between Thornton and Fallon is profound, they know it, and they work it to maximum advantage, giving the play vibrancy when they are on stage.

But even the skills of these and a full slate of powerhouse actors can't overcome the tediousness of Marlowe's gods-meddling-with-humans story, which — even at the time of its performance in the late 16th century — was a threadbare theatrical wheeze.

Chalk my disinterest up to a lifelong antipathy towards this kind of story, to the creepy man-love opening of the play, and to the lack of spark and genius that characterized Marlowe's more famous and layered works. It just didn't work for me as entertainment.

"Dido, Queen of Carthage" also features Benjamin Curns, Gregory Jon Phelps, Brandi Rhome, Allison Glenzer, Miriam Donald, Daniel Kennedy, John Harrell, Jeremy West, Chris Johnston and Aidan O'Reilly.

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