Theatre Out is Orange County's lone theater devoted exclusively to presenting plays about the gay and lesbian experience. (It says so right on their webpage!) Previous productions at the Santa Ana theater ( located in the space formerly occuped by Rude Guerrilla) include such landmark gay-themed plays as Angels in America, The Laramie Project, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
So what is the company doing mounting a 16th-century English history play, Edward II? Its playwright, Christopher Marlowe, may have been gay (because, really, what playwright isn't?) but he's rarely spoken of in the same breath as gay icons Tennessee Williams, Terence McNally or Tony Kushner.
Theatre Out is staging it because a huge part of the play revolves around a love triangle between the King, his wife Queen Isabella, and the king's boytoy, Gaveston. That's not all it's about-there's a lot of hubbub about war and politics and such, but the trio is the focus of this new adaptation courtesy of Darcy Hogan, Orange County playwright and general woman-about-theater.
It's not that Hogan burns with passion for Edward III or history plays. Turns out, the project belonged to another director who had to bow out a few weeks before auditions. The theater approached Hogan, who has worked with several county storefronts over the years as an actor, director, writer and general Jackie-of-all-trades, and asked her.
Although completely unfamiliar with the play, Hogan said once she read it, the language and love triangle grabbed her. But with a major caveat:
"Marlowe's original version jumps around in time and space and has more than 40 characters," she said. "That was the style of his time, but I thought I wanted a more focused version that would translate better to today's audiences. So, I trimmed it down, focused the story and looked more closely at the relationships between Edward, his queen, and his lover."
But Hogan didn't want to do a modern adaptation, so although about 40 percent of her adaptation is completely new, she's adhered to the tone of Marlowe's language, and written in iambic pentameter.
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"I didn't feel there was anything in my version that couldn't be told while leaving the piece squarely in its original period," she said. "I wanted anything I added to mesh seamlessly with Marlowe's words. And I think the result is an adaptation that he would have liked-and possibly the story he would have told, had he been able to in his time."
Another play that Theatre Out could have easily presented opens Friday at Fullerton's Stages Theatre: Steel Dragnolias, all-drag version of Steel Magnolias. It runs only one night this weekend, and begins its regular late-run run on Friday and Saturdays next week. (An interview with director Stephen John and the cast will run in next week's print edition of OC Weekly).
Edward II at the Empire Theater, 202 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 826-8700. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Selected Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Selected Sundays, 2 p.m. Thru June 5. $15-$18.
Steel Dragnolias at StagesTheatre, 400 E. Commonwealth, Fullerton, (714) 525-4484. Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m. Thru June 12. $10-$12.