Of all Elizabethans, Christopher Marlowe seems best suited to our telephone-throwing, Katie-Holmes-marrying Age of Celebrity. When he wasn’t crafting a thrilling new blank-verse style for the stage (a style ultimately perfected by his altogether lower-profile contemporary from Stratford), Marlowe was brawling in taverns, quite likely spying for the Crown, and leaving suggestive clues about dalliances with women and men in the highest reaches of his society. Harlan Didricksen has given Marlowe the full biopic treatment in his play, currently mounted at the Bailiwick. Didricksen’s script is not without its flaws. Apparently dissatisfied with the lurid enough historical record of Marlowe’s shadowy death—he accidentally stabbed himself in the head during a tavern fight with the mysterious Ingram Frizer—Didricksen fingers a ludicrously unlikely target as Marlowe’s real killer. And throughout, Didricksen’s playwrights and nobles lapse too frequently into anachronistically therapeutic language. But David Zak’s production downplays these weaknesses to deliver a compelling portrait of Marlowe and his milieu. Zak shifts deftly between reenactments of Marlowe’s plays and scenes from his frenetic life, employing Brian Sidney Bembridge’s multilevel set, Jared Moore’s subtle, painterly light design, and R&D Choreography’s dazzling violence design to keep the play’s action moving relentlessly forward. The result is an absorbing look at this figure at once contemporary and remote. (John Beer)
“Marlowe” plays at Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, 1229 West Belmont Avenue, (773)883.1090, through July 17.