‘Violent Delights’ seems like gratuitous violence, Elizabethan-style


Leanne Dinverno, Jacqueline Chenault and Cori Dioquino star in “Violent Delights.” Photography courtesy Jay Henry. (Courtesy Jay Henry)
July 18, 2013

There are few things more riveting in theater than a good fight scene. Actually capturing the violence and spontaneity of a physical fight is difficult, and too often these scenes are hesitant and clearly planned out, which ruins the mood. The premise of “Violent Delights,” playing in the Warehouse, is “let’s take a bunch of scenes of heightened emotion [read: fighting] from Shakespeare.”

The ostensible reason is to make us examine our essential human blood lust and our thirst to watch violence. The play’s central problem is that it disproves its own thesis: You’re bored of watching fighting after about 10 minutes, and the play lasts 75. Fight scenes are exciting because we know the stakes between characters, because we’ve followed our heroes or villains on emotional journeys that led them to this. Without the lead-up, it’s all a lot of hitting each other with sticks and pretending to be dead.

The show’s problems are just beginning, though — the fights in “Violent Delights” never reach that peak of real, fevered emotion and instead plod along, beat by beat, never surprising or thrilling. The cast, led by a would-be menacing ringmaster played by Patrick Mullen, gamely takes us through dance fights, stick fights and, in one case, a Civil War reenactment (Why? Who knows!), culminating in . . . well, you know in “Indiana Jones” when the bad guys come at Indy one by one instead of all attacking him together, and it makes no sense? There’s a scene like that, but it goes on WAY longer and there’s no Harrison Ford in sight.

One last thing to know before you go: This is best enjoyed by Shakespeare aficionados, as it includes scenes from several of his plays and expects you to know what’s going on with no introduction. This makes some sense for “Romeo and Juliet” or “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” but becomes more problematic when you’re reenacting “Two Gentlemen of Verona.”

Violent Delights: A Shakespearean Brawl-esque Sideshow

75 minutes. Through July 26 at the Warehouse, 645 New York Ave. NW as part of the Capital Fringe Festival.

The Washington Post’s Emily Yahr discusses this year’s highly anticipated Emmy nominations, which included heavy recognition for Washington-based shows and Netflix series. (Nicki DeMarco and Emily Yahr/The Washington Post)
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