What's it about?
Double Falsehood is a play that may or may not have been written (at least partially) by Shakespeare, but that's not the point. The play is set in Spain and revolves around Henriquez, the younger and rebellious son of Duke Angelo, and his schemes to pursue two reluctant women, Violante and Leonora.
What'd I experience?
I arrive at The Irondale Center and am surprised to see that it closely resembles a church. Is it a church? I walk up flights of stairs and then over and down into the spacious performing area. There are religious paintings on the walls. Okay, this has to be a church that was converted into a theatre. There are two distinct sections of seating, and I choose the one on the right and sit in the front row. The actors are all present in the space and are talking amongst each other, completely out of character. When I look over at one of them, he smiles right at me in acknowledgement. The cast is dressed in a mixture of modern and old fashioned clothing. Some performers are wearing Converse sneakers and baseball caps, but their clothes have sewn on ruffles to add a more dated feel. The actors themselves are diverse, with modern hairstyles and piercings.
A staff member announces over the loud speaker for the actors to take their places for top of show. The actors respond, dutifully, "Thank you, places!" I feel like I am a fly on the wall during a rehearsal.
Not long after the play begins, I become very involved in the intertwining storylines of Julio and Leonora, and Henriquez and Violante.
Julio and Leonora appear to be utterly in love, which is pleasant to see; The two cannot keep their hands off each other. But before they can be wed, Henriquez sends Julio to court to collect money from his father to purchase a horse, issuing this order fully conscious of the fact that Julio had intended to marry the fair and highborn Leonora, and sought to maintain the permission of both their fathers. With Julio conveniently gone, Henriquez is open to woo Leonora.
But Henriquez is greedy, and develops an infatuation with the beautiful Violante, a local girl who repeatedly rejects his advances, which is well within her right. The final time she rubuffs Henriquez, as she moves to turn away from him, his hand clamps down tightly on her wrist, and something sinister forms in his eyes. They don't show the act, and no matter how much Henriquez tries to convince himself otherwise after the fact, I know it was rape. Henriquez posits that although Violante struggled physically and appeared ill at ease, she did not cry out in pain or verbally ask him to stop, which (according to his twisted logic) means that the act was consensual. He actually compares her anxiety and silence to that of a meek bride on her wedding night.
Violante, understandably, is shattered, a mere fragment of what she once was as a result of Henriquez's attack. She feels tainted and ashamed, like she can never face another person again knowing what she participated in, however unwillingly.
The play ends in some gruesome parody of a happily ever after, with Julio and Leonora reunited and engaged to be married, and Violante betrothed to a suspiciously repentant Henriquez, her rapist. The lights fade on the ecstatic faces of Julio, Leonora, and Henriquez, and the terrified and sobbing Violante, a girl ruined forever.