Women Beware Women
By Thomas Middleton
Directed by Jay O’Berski
You’ve seen the poster. A woman, dripping in blood, her black-rimmed eyes sunk in a ghoulish, thousand-yard stare. “Women Beware Women,” it reads – but what is it all about?
“Women Beware Women” examines the interplay between love, power, morality, and sin. When Tia (Bailey Parks) elopes with the gentlewoman Bianca (Lucy Goodson), she believes that their passionate love will keep them safe from the machinations of the outside world. A rash hope, it would seem, as the Duchess (Alyssa Wong) is soon able to engender Bianca’s fall into betrayal. As Livia (Molly Forlines) notes, the first sip of sin may taste of bitter wormwood, but it is pure nectar thereafter. More twists follow, but as the promotional poster suggests, the end is bloody.
“Women Beware Women” in its original form is a Jacobean tragedy written by Thomas Middleton in the early 17th century, but although the version performed at Duke is replete with “thous” and “methinks,” it has a few crucial adaptations. First, all of Middleton’s main characters have been transformed into women, with the necessary implications for their ensuing relationships – marriage, adultery, and like. Second, the cast is all-female, with one exception – try to spot him. As a result, both the title of the play and its overarching message take on a new significance. When the stage goes dark at the end of the play, each character lying dead represents a different dimension of women’s folly slain: greed, lust, obsession, cruel apathy. Only the young, innocent Isabella (Kelly McCrum) is saved, but even she is not blameless for her actions. As Bianca notes ironically, “[women] have no enemies.” The unspoken implication is clear – no enemies, except themselves.
The last performance of “Women Beware Women” will be Sunday, November 18 at 2pm in Sheafer Theater.