This is the fifth installment of the "Hard Bard" series by local company GreenStage—a Halloween-season tradition that transforms old revenge tragedies into comedies with lots of blood that falls on the stage and on those seated in the first two rows. In the past, Macbeth and Titus Andronicus have received the Hard Bard treatment. This year, it is Cardenio, a second-rate Elizabethan play that some scholars believe was written by Shakespeare and others don't; some believe it was written by Thomas Middleton and others don't. The only thing we know for sure is that no one knows the truth. But anyone who reads the text can see its language and style are inferior to even the weakest works by Shakespeare.

One part of Cardenio is very entertaining, and the other part is amusing. The part that's entertaining involves a usurper, the fallen king, and the fallen king's fiancée. The usurper cannot get the fallen king's fiancée out his mind. All he wants, all he desires, is her in his bed. The other story is about a man who thinks his wife is unfaithful and gets his close friend to test her fidelity to prove his worst fears.

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In GreenStage's production, directed by Tony Driscoll, each part is powered by a single performance. In the one involving the horny usurper, it's the actor who plays him, Aaron Allshouse; in the other part, it's the unfaithful wife, Amelia Meckler. Both bring great comic energy to their characters: Allshouse is at home in this character, relishes the awful things the usurper says and does, and walks about the blood-splattered stage with a bounce to his step and a chicken leg in his hand—this chicken leg later becomes his penis when fucking a woman who is not there in soul and mind. (Don't ask—just go and see the play.) Meckler is also at home in her character, who is not sinister like the king but daft, bubbly, and easy to sexually please. Meckler's voice and body language nail these traits.

But the heart of this play, and the reason I'm eager to recommend it (the show ends this weekend), is the scene in the tomb. The fallen king's fiancée, called the Lady (Nicole Vernon), has killed herself because she refuses to become the usurper's wife or mistress and to part from her fallen king. This is her tomb. It is dark. The usurper enters with two servants. He has a bad idea. If he could not have the Lady in life, he will have her in death. He cracks her casket open. Her body lifelessly falls out. The servants realize what their usurper-king has in mind and begin to panic. The usurper plants a kiss on her lips. They are cold. They are good enough for him. He orders the servants to take her corpse to his chamber, and there he can fuck for as long as he can, for as long as she has some resemblance to life. This scene is perfectly executed. It is the jewel of the show. CHARLES MUDEDE

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