Though Madame Tussaud’s features some gruesome statuary (Nic Cage, Whoopi Goldberg), it offers nothing so horrid as wax figures of a husband and son designed to convince a woman of their brutal death. Leave that cruel fillip to John Webster’s 1614 revenge tragedy The Duchess of Malfi, presented by the Kings County Shakespeare Company. Like characters in a Jane Austen novel, the duchess’s brothers oppose a second match for the young widow. Unlike characters in a Jane Austen novel, they thus decide to murder the duchess, her new husband, and all their children. Incest, lycanthropy, poisoned prayer books, and a musical number by lunatics also feature.
Director Jemma Alix Levy has apparently taken great care to ensure her cast understands the verse. But they prove so eager to communicate the all of every line that they give each the same weight. (As the duchess, Renee Bucciarelli has a particularly terrifying enunciation.) Similarly, Levy imbues every scene with an equal importance, leading to lugubrious pacing. The line “I account this world a tedious theatre” often rings true. However, Matt D’Amico’s inspired performance as the revenger Bosola isn’t tedious at all. How many men could endow twee scene-ending couplets with such disenchanted menace?