Volpone: Red Bull Theater

American Theatre, February 2013 | Go to article overview

Volpone: Red Bull Theater


Jesse Berger, DIRECTION: Red Bull Theater's mission is to produce plays of heightened language, particularly from the Jacobean period. I was interested in an out-and-out comedy--but a lot of Jacobean comedies don't stand the test of time because the references were so contemporary. After the economic crisis in 2008, I was looking at Jacobean comedies about money, and the deeper we got into the stories of Bernie Madoff and the economic "bad actors," we realized Volpone would fit with our time and would examine the role of money in our culture and its corrupting influence. Everyone in Volpone is distorted by greed--they have these animal characteristics written into them. John Arnone's set design reflected a commedia world and the acting had a contemporary feel, without being too Method. The heightened style embraced what the text gave us. If we played Volpone in a naturalistic way, it might've been a very boring evening!

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Clint Ramos, COSTUME DESIGN: The aesthetic that we were shooting for was Elizabethan with a bit of punk and grunge. We kept it in this black world, and we operated on imageries of birds. For the three rich guys--Corbaccio, Corvina and Voltore [center and righti--we wanted to evoke the iridescence of blackbird feathers. Madam Would-Be [fifth from right] was based on a red and black macaw, marrying her to the other blackbirds but also setting her apart. Characters like Celia [far left] were outside the cycle of greed and seemed like doves, so I dressed them in blue to keep them in a separate world. Volpone [bottom] is the fox, so I thought it would be fun to dress him up in foxtails. I wanted to strip him down to a decaying figure, to show what greed does to us, so we put him in this 19th-century union suit, or onesie. I wanted characters like Nano and Castrone [bottom left and right], who entertain Volpone, to manifest the same decay as Volpone but in a punk, rock-and-roll kind of way, with some sexuality and androgyny. So we went into Vivienne Westwood and punk London to give the sense that they lived in dungeons and just popped up when called for. …

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