Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Evil Legacy The Story of Lucrezia Borgia by Kathrine Bates

by Joe Straw

Political ambition leaves a sour taste in the mouths of the populace. And perception of a malevolent family implicates all members of that family, justly or not. Evil Legacy is a one-woman play about Lucrezia Borgia written and performed by Kathrine Bates and directed by Ted Lange in a limited run at the beautiful Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills, California.

This is a tale about Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI) set in the Machiavellian times of the Renaissance period. Born in 1480 until her death in 1519, Lucrezia explains her relationship with her family but she wants us to know that she is by no means guilty by association. Is she the guilty victim of association or just plain evil?

Lucrezia describes her life and loves arranged by Pope Alexander VI and Cesare Borgia. Her father and brother made most of these arrangements in their ultimate quest for political power, monetary wealth, and reputation. They were a family of immense authority and struggled to hold on to their power for as long as they could.

Bates simplifies the characters by relating them to chess pieces and explaining the men in her life, the political maneuverings, and their quest for power.

Lucrezia lived an insalubrious life. But, as she tells it, she was essentially a pawn in her family’s high stakes moves to align themselves with France, Naples, or any other country that added power to their personal base. The movements around her forced her to reposition her thoughts and justifications on love and life.

Lucrezia was the illegitimate daughter of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (Later Pope Alexander VI) and Vanozza Cattanei. Her siblings, also illegitimate, were Cesare Borgia, (appointed a Cardinal at the age of 18 and a dangerous man with the Pope’s ear) Juan Borgia, and Joffre Borjia.

In this play Bates moves us from one significant point in Lucrezia’s life to another. She speaks of the arrangement of her first marriage to husband Giovanni Sforza, Duke of Pesaro in 1493, forming a powerful alliance with the Milanese family.

Giovanni later fell out of political favor and was forced to flee for his life.

Understanding the ambition of Lucrezia’s family, Giovanni was forced to sign a statement claiming the marriage was not consummated. But, there was a problem. In order for Lucrezia to be promised to the Duke of Bisceglie, she had to prove she was “intact”, but at this time she was, essentially, pregnant. This problem was kept quiet by having Lucrezia sent silently off to a convent.

Lucrezia, ready to come back to Rome, was thrusted back into society to continue with the arranged marriage to Alfonso of Aragon, the Duke of Bisceglie. Alfonso was the love of her life and in time Cesare was jealous of their relationship.

Cesare sent a group of men to kill Alfonso in the courtyard as Lucrezia looked from her balcony. Alfonso survived the attack and was brought up to Lucrezia’s bedroom to recover. During his recovery Cesare sent some men into the room to strangle Alfonso to death as Lucrezia and her chambermaid were helpless to prevent it.

Whatever her motives were when the love of her life was being strangled in her bedroom, outside perception could imagine Lucrezia having a cup of wine rather than seeking help thus sealing her image.

Ted Lange (of Love Boat fame) originally directed this play. Always the trick in a one-person show is breaking the fourth wall. Exactly whom is the character talking to? In this case, Lucrezia is speaking to Pantasilea, her trusted chambermaid, or as the case may be, us, the audience as Patasilea moves about beyond the fourth wall.

Bates as the writer did a magnificent job and as a performer she was just wonderful, but (and it’s a very small but) there is the grand potential for more layers.

What a wonderful show! It is a fascinating look at a disturbing time where greed and the lust for power knew no boundries.

There is a mystery in this production of Evil Legacy to give it away would be tantamount to… well… turn to page four in this blog to find the answer. The mystery revealed will give you the answers to this story and maybe to life.

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