The Hudson Shakespeare Company returns to Fort Lee’s Tuesday for the first of two performances of its final offering of the summer in its 21st annual Shakespeare in the Park series.
The company will put on what it calls the “lost” play by the Bard of Avon, “Cardenio,” on Aug. 7 and Aug. 14.
Directed by Jon Ciccarelli, the production is an adaptation of a play called “Double Falsehood,” which is believed to have been written by Shakespeare and his protégé, John Fletcher, according to Hudson Shakespeare.
Based on a subplot from Cervantes' “Don Quixote,” the play follows young lovers Cardenio (played by David Rosenberg) and Luscinda (Noelle Fair) as they try to get their father’s permission to get married.
Cardenio's close—and promiscuous—friend Fernando (Michael Hagins) loves and leaves Dorotea (Melissa Meli), whom he promised to marry, and proceeds to lust after Luscinda instead.
“The friends duel, madness ensues, parents worry, comic cross dressing, a bit with some sheep and other chases ensue on a swashbuckling adventure through the Andalusia area of Spain,” said Ciccarelli in a statement announcing the performances of “Cardenio.”
The following is a description of the play provided by the Hudson Shakespeare Company:
"Zorro Meets Shakespeare"
Cardenio is in love with his childhood sweetheart, Luscinda. Her father, Don Bernardo, insists that Cardenio's father gives his approval of their relationship, before allowing it to continue any further. Because of his skill in horsemanship, Cardenio is called to Court to be the companion of Fernando, the Duke's wild younger son.
Fernando is passionately obsessed with a wealthy farmer's daughter called Dorotea. After seducing her with promises of marriage, he abandons her and sets his sights on Luscinda, although she is betrothed to his best friend. Fernando sends Cardenio back to court so he can pursue Luscinda unhindered. Her father is happy to accept such a wealthy young aristocrat as a husband for his daughter, and a marriage is arranged. Luscinda sends in secret for Cardenio, who rushes back to try and stop the wedding. Unable to prevent it, Cardenio is driven mad with grief and rage and disappears into the mountains.
Dorotea has dressed herself as a boy in order to pursue Fernando, and is living with the shepherds in the mountains when she encounters Cardenio in his madness. Fernando, determined to pursue Luscinda, flees, discovers that having fled her home, she has taken refuge in a convent, and intends to abduct her.
Pedro, Fernando's older brother, agrees to help, and in order to resolve the matter, brings all the parties together in an inn, where Fernando is brought face-to-face with the wronged Dorotea. The couples are finally reunited.
Shakespeare's theater company, the King's men, produced two court performances of a play called “Cardenno/a” in 1613 at the time when Shakespeare and John Fletcher had penned “The Two Noble Kinsmen” and “Henry VIII.” No published or handwritten text survived of this play, but in 1653, a book publisher claimed copyright to a list of plays, one of which was “The History of Cardenio” by Fletcher and Shakespeare.
[One hundred] years later, a lawyer turned theater producer and scholar named Lewis Theobald claimed to have several handwritten, adapted prompt copies of a lost play by Shakespeare based on “Don Quixote.” He further adapted it into the play “Double Falsehood.”
The handwritten manuscripts have not survived, but the play as published was regarded for centuries as a hoax. However, in 2010, renewed interest in the play surfaced when Arden's Shakespeare series published the play as having echoes of both Fletcher and Shakespeare in the text, and the play may be genuine after all.
Hudson Shakespeare Company presents the tragicomedy in the tradition of Shakespeare's late plays with moments of high comedy and pathos with a flair for the drama and pageantry of a “Zorro” film and invites audiences to decide, "Is it Shakespeare or a hoax?"
“Either way, Hudson Shakespeare concludes its 21st season of traveling Shakespeare with a rousing piece sure to please all comers with its swashbuckling Spanish pageantry,” Ciccarelli said.
Shakespeare in the Park performances, for which admission is free, take place in Monument Park starting at 7:30 p.m. Audience members are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs.
If the event is called because of weather, it will be moved to the Hackensack Cultural Arts Center located at 39 Broadway in Hackensack. For more information, call 973-449-7443 or visit Hudson Shakespeare online.