The Duchess Of Malfi

Blood, Comedy, and Tragedy

The Duchess of Malfi opened at North Seattle College on February 26th.  This production, put on by GreenStage’s Hard Bard, is a bloody retelling of John Webster’s play, directed by Tony Driscoll.  It was a serious story told in an unserious manner.  With the blood, humor, and acting, this production made for quite an entertaining Friday night.

GreenStage’s Hard Bard brings gore to the theater.  Their motto: “When it calls for blood, we think more is better!” is entirely true.  When a character dies, the audience will know by the blood that cakes the set walls or the clothes of the brave souls that chose the first row.  GreenStage has set up a viewing experience similar to that of a Gallagher comedy show, but instead of watermelons and plastic ponchos, GreenStage’s Hard Bard gives blood and barf bags.

The Duchess of Malfi is a tragic play about a duchess, her two cruel brothers, and her new husband who is below her social status. The Duchess, played by Nicole Vernon has two brothers, the Cardinal (Aaron Allshouse) and Ferdinand (Anthony Duckett). They both believe that their sister should not remarry, after the death of her first husband, in order to save her virtue, allow more inheritance for themselves, and keep their social status high.  She goes against their commands and marries Antonio Bologna (Noah Luce), her steward, who is of much lower class than she is.  They keep their marriage a secret from her brothers knowing that she’ll be disowned or worse.  As the play continues, people are betrayed, officials commit corruption, and nearly everyone is dead by the end.

For a play written in the early 17th century, GreenStage was able to create a fun, humorous adaption of it.  They incorporated modern day, crass humor to an otherwise tragic and depressing play.  The direction Tony Driscoll took with this play was lighthearted and blood-filled.  It was difficult taking the death of main characters seriously as their necks were spewing blood into the audience, staining the shirts of the first row.

The strength of the show was the acting by Anthony Duckett who played Ferdinand.  His quick dissent into madness was absurd and humorous.  He started as an irate lunatic, and quickly transformed into a grave digging, flesh eating “wolf-man”.

What they lack in production design they make up for in blood and bile.  Their sets were basic, their outfits were simple, but their passion for gore give the audience something else to focus on.

If the kids are at home and you’re in need of a free activity for Friday night, then this play might be for you.

The blood and humor may not be suitable for some viewers.



The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster.  GreenStage Theater, North Seattle College, 9600 College Way North. 98103.  Fri-Sun 7:30 until March 19th. Tickets: Info: or 206-748-1551

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