A Classic Battle of the Sexes with a Twist

by Lety Gonzalez

The Roadrunner Theatre’s production of The Real Machiavelli, written by Monica Bauer, is a show you can’t miss. The story revolves around one question: Who wrote The Prince? History dictates that the famous Niccoló Machiavelli is the author, but was he really? Or was the truth suppressed?

The Real Machiavelli

Cast of The Real Machiavelli. Photo courtesy of Roadrunner Theatre Company.

The script is brilliant and delightful and really revamps the narrative. Yes, of course, Machiavelli wrote The Prince, but is it so outlandish to imagine that a woman could have written it as well? This story explores that perspective. The women in this play are fully rounded characters with their own desires. The dialogue is thoughtful and realistic. Machiavelli’s devoted wife, Signora Marietta Machiavelli’s desire is for her husband, a once great and powerful man, to have a job and be great and powerful once more. She enlists the help of his cunning mistress, Francesca de la Tours, whose dream is to help Niccoló restore his former confidence. At first their desires work in collusion, but Francesca discovers her desire to attain power is not as impossible to fulfill as she once thought.
Naïma Boushaki passionately portrayed Francesca and captured her strength, though I do wish she had highlighted more of Francesca’s cunning and calculating character.

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Cheryl King as Signora Marietta Machiavelli and David Updegraff as Dottore Alphonso Muti. Photo courtesy of Roadrunner Theatre Company.

Clark Ray’s Machiavelli felt a bit forced at times, but I really believed him as a ladies man who lives to please (if you know what I mean). I loved the chemistry between Cheryl King, who portrayed Signora Marietta and David Updegraff, who portrayed Dottore Alphonso Muti, an advisor to the family, whose calculating nature assists the Signora in her plans. It was a treat to watch their relationship evolve. David Zinke and Lionel Swanson were very funny in their roles as Commedia 1 and 2, the zany court jester-like characters in the show. It is also very much worth noting Cheryl King’s other roles in the production here. Not only did she direct and act in it, but she was also responsible for the costumes, sound, and set design!
Overall, the cast gave a pretty solid performance, but there were some instances in which I wished the actors would have raised the stakes and made the magnitude of the situation they were facing feel more realistic. I also wanted the characters to be more intimate with one another. The theater space is cozy and I wanted that coziness reflected in the character’s intimate interactions. Instead of facing out towards the audience, it would have been better if the characters faced each other and connected with one another. However, there were some times in which it was appropriate for the movement to be big and directed towards the audience.

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Clark Andreas Ray as Niccoló Machiavelli and Naïma Boushaki as Francesca de la Tours. Photo courtesy of Roadrunner Theatre Company.

I recommend this show for mature audiences as the script is generously peppered with sexual innuendos and the actors delight in their physicality. I didn’t anticipate the play to be so steamy, but it certainly warmed up the night. During certain scenes, the audience was almost giddy with anticipation and eager for the cup of passion to runneth over. Often times I find that sex and sexual acts are omitted or reduced to an insinuation, but not here. I found it refreshing to see two bodies indulge and communicate in the physical language we all know and crave.
Despite the fact that this play is set a little over 500 years ago, the topics covered are incredibly relevant to today’s political climate. The Prince is basically a handbook on how to maintain power through deceit and backstabbing, as well as a guide on how to control the people with fear. It isn’t hard to imagine that perhaps this is a commonly read book among some of the leaders in our country.
While I am pleased to say that the play was not only written by a woman, directed by a woman, and predominantly designed by a woman, looking at the entirety of the Roadrunner’s season, this will be the only female authored play they will produce. Furthermore, it seems as if the cast lists for the remaining plays will be mostly male. The cast and crew of this show consisted of five women and eight men. *
If you are looking for a fresh perspective, don’t miss out on this show! The witty banter, teasing physicality, and intellectual conversation will leave you wondering why we don’t have more theater like this in the community.
The Real Machiavelli runs from October 19th through November 11th at the Roadrunner Theater on 8892 E Tanque Verde Rd. Shows start at 7 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 pm on Sundays. General admission is $20 with discount prices available–there is even a starving actor discount! Click on the link if you wish to purchase tickets for this show. https://realmachiavelli.brownpapertickets.com/

*An earlier version of this article made the following statement ” I wonder if Commedia 1 and 2 and the Narrator could have been portrayed by female of queer identifying people.” Since the publication of the article, it has come to our attention that some of the cast members are queer identifying people. Thank you Roadrunner Theater for casting nonbinary people.

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