Thursday, April 4, 2019

Play a Day: E2

Bob Bartlett
For Thursday I read E2 by Bob Bartlett and available from New Play Exchange.

Christopher Marlowe's Edward II is a play script that I enjoy very much and have wanted to someday direct. The only time I have ever seen it performed was a solo adaptation back in the 90s about which I would just as soon not comment.

Bartlett's E2 is a "contemporary reimagining" which will premiere this fall. Revisiting the tragic reign of the son of Edward I ("Longshanks") in a modern setting, one is reminded of the eighth British monarch to take the name Edward. He also put personal affection higher than service, though Edward VIII's association with Hitler has somewhat tarnished his reputation, even among those who supported his unsuccessful attempt to buck tradition.

The root of these stories, like those we see on The Crown, is that these people, these monarchs, just want to be normal people, to have the freedom to love and be loved by whomever they choose. But then that would make them just that, normal. So why the fuck are they elevated to a position above all others? Especially on the public's dime.

Transposed into the modern era, when people are free to marry whom they like and homosexuality is greatly (though by no means entirely) accepted, Bartlett's play reminds us that we still hold our monarchs to different standards. And it's complicated, because the King's lover is not only of the same gender, he is low-born, and perhaps worst of all, foreign.

"For you the words foreigner and fear are the same," one says, and so it is all across the globe.

The ancient conflict remains; this king abdicates his responsibilities so he may have private time with one whom he must love secretly, for which he is harshly judged. But if he could openly have the kind of relationship heteronormative people enjoy every day, would he not be able to concentrate more successful on the matters of state which require his attention?

This is a witty play, and very smart.Cunning in its ability to take historic events and make them believable in a modern setting. I would love to see the premiere at Maryland's Rep Stage this November.

Who should I read tomorrow?

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