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Weekly Alibi Revenge Is Sweet

Vengeance Carries the Day at the Vortex

By Michael Maiello

Zastrozzi, running at the Vortex, is an excellent example of 19th century melodrama with some philosophical punch. It's one of those turn-of-the-century plays where dualists began to realize that, in the battle between good and evil, evil may well carry the day.

As we end this century celebrating the revenge-execution of Timothy McVeigh, George F. Walker's early-century revenge tragedy gains new relevance. The title character, Zastrozzi (played well by Michael Blum), quests to avenge the death of his mother. On the way, he kills an artist for being mediocre and executes those who would stand in his way for the sin of hubris. Like God in heaven, he warns people to "know their limitations" and kills them for stepping beyond.

Verezzi, a man who killed his mother, has gone mad. Malcolm Palmer turns in a charming performance of the killer unable to care for himself. Vincent Marcus plays Victor, an ex-priest who turns from God to Verezzi after making a pact with Verezzi's father to keep the boy from harm.

The revenge plot ruins the innocent Julia, thesped by Sheila Devitt, who handles the turns of her character nicely, from rich little aristocrat to unwilling killer to victim. Zastrozzi's henchmen, Bernardo (Robert Griego) and Matilda (Rachel Harmon-Keeney) are also fun to watch. Especially Matilda, a sadomasochistic temptress who exudes the raw sexuality expected in any turn-of-the-century play.

Zastrozzi is director John LaFree's first full-length directing effort. Pacing is always difficult in an episodic play, but the unit set design of Richard Hess keeps things fairly smooth. And the fights, by Paul Bolles, add adrenaline to the play. All in all, this is a show worth seeing because the play is little known, and probably won't be produced again in town for a long while.

--Michael Maiello

Zastrozzi plays at 2004 1/2 Central SE through July 6. Call 247-8600.

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