Photo by Montgomery Sutton
Members of "The Changeling" acting ensemble at the Plaxall Gallery: Elisabeth Ahrens (Isabella), Deb Radloff (Lollio), Daniel Kemper (Alsemero), Jack Sochet (Antonio), Montgomery Sutton (Deflores), Clio Contogenis (Beatrice), Andrew Garrett (Alonzo), John Roque (Vermandero).

BY TAMMY SCILEPPI

No doubt we’re living in weird times. And strange times call for an extra-creepy All Hallows Eve, filled with grisly ghost stories.

So, why not make a deeply disturbing, darkly comic 400-year-old Jacobean tragicomedy of lust, madness, and murder, part of your Halloween fun and head to Astoria and Long Island City, where you and your fellow trick or treaters can experience a raucous and interactive Halloween-themed production of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s “The Changeling?”

Don’t miss Queens-based acting company Rude Grooms’ chilling revival of the 1622 play at The Astorian (The Studio Bar) on Oct. 24-26 and The Plaxall Gallery (Long Island City) on Oct. 28-30, at 7:30 p.m. before returning to The Astorian on Halloween at 7:30 p.m. and for a special 10 p.m. Moonlight Matinee. Tickets are on sale now at rudegrooms.com.

“By balancing the deeply disturbing with a darkly comedic bite that hasn’t softened in the ensuing centuries, ‘The Changeling’ is a perfect Halloween night out for those who want a blood-curdling thrill that’s still a raucously fun night out,” said Rude Grooms actor-manager Montgomery Sutton, who portrays the play’s most villainous character, Deflores. 

Calling it a “brilliant mix of genres that will appeal as much to fans of ‘Jennifer’s Body’ or ‘American Psycho’ as fans of Shakespeare and Jacobean drama,” he added, “We’re thrilled to build on last year’s oversold run of ‘The Witch of Edmonton’ at The Astorian and The Plaxall Gallery, to conjure these 400-year-old ghosts in Queens.” 

Associate produced by Jessica Latour (Rude Grooms’ “Romeo and Juliet”), “The Changeling” plot centers around protagonist Beatrice-Joanna (Clio Contogenis), a devious young woman who plots to murder her fiancé after falling for another man. She persuades a gullible servant, madly in love with her, but whom she secretly abhors, to commit the crime. That act of violence jumpstarts a torrent of horrors that leave no one unscathed. 

“Filled equally with hilarity and depravity, its dark humor is remarkably accessible; Halloween imagery permeates the play,” said Sutton, who previously starred in Rude Grooms’ “Romeo and Juliet.”

The play is brought to life through site-specific performance, direct audience engagement, and live music, and you can be a part of this haunted Halloween event in a speakeasy setting at The Studio Bar, or in an immersive, mobile rendition in a 12,000-square-foot art gallery at The Plaxall. Costumes are strongly encouraged.

“All theater of this period makes the audience an active participant through direct engagement, but the characters in this play have even more explicit audience engagement than in most plays of Shakespeare or his contemporaries,” Sutton said. “When characters are at their most conniving and deceitful, they involve the audience the most: this gives a powerful agency to the audience as they are not just witness but party to the evils that the characters commit.”

The acting ensemble includes veterans of the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as other companies.     

By bringing their intimate theatrical plays out to their audiences and offering free or low-cost admission, Rude Grooms aims to enrich their community through cultural engagement that is accessible financially, geographically and artistically.

The company will return to Astoria Park, Rainey Park, Queensbridge Park, and The Plaxall Gallery in summer 2020, with their annual free Commons Series production. In the meantime, they’re launching a podcast series called “Shake-Scene,” that presents plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries in unabridged form, recorded in front of a live studio audience in Queens. 

Until then Queens residents can check out “The Changeling.”

Groundling (standing) tickets may be reserved for $10 and reserved seats are available for $25 to $35 at The Plaxall Gallery and $15 to $35 at The Astorian. To buy tickets or learn more, visit www.rudegrooms.com.

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