“Klingon Tamburlaine” – Boldly Goes Where No Elizabethan Has Gone Before

By Ernest Kearney — School of Night is known and respected on the Fringe circuit for performing acrobatic feats of artistry with skillful aplomb as was on display in their Punch and Judy, followed by Christopher Marlowe’s The Faggot King and their HFF2018’S staging of Hercules Insane by the Roman playwright Seneca.

For this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival that is  currently on stage at The Complex in Hollywood, the School has taken on another piece adapted from the pen of Marlow.  And it needs to be stated at the outset of this review, most of the faults of Klingon Tamburlaine, lie with the original play.

The main character is the historical Tamburlaine, of Timur the Lame (1336-1405) who established the Timurid Dynasty of Asia, ruled an empire larger than either Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan’s, destroyed the Nestorian church removing the Middle East from the sphere of Christianity, terrified all of Europe, was responsible for the Great Wall of China as we know it, contributed to the downfall of Islam’s Golden Age and is Uzbekistan’s national hero.

That is the history. Unfortunately, most Americans unless aren’t very interested in history unless it’s the subject of a Ken Burns documentary or a HBO mini-series.

Tamburlaine the Great and the playwright Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) had great influence on both the development of English drama and the works of Shakespeare. But Marlowe’s plays present dilemmas to both modern ears and modern sensibilities, and none more so than his Tamburlaine the Great.

The great playwright Ben Jonson, a contemporary of Marlowe’s, condemned the play as nothing but “scenical strutting and furious vociferation,” and there has been little in modern criticism to challenge that opinion.

Marlowe’s Tamburlaine was originally a two-part play running well over five hours and involving a cast about the size of the population of Glendale. But the most immediate problem for any production today is in Marlowe’s portrayal of the “Asiatic mind” which borders on racist, and what is perceived as anti-Islamic views due to a character’s burning of the Qur’an as he proclaims, “A god is not so glorious as a king.”

This act was not an insult to Islam on the atheistic Marlowe’s part but as close a statement as he could make on religion overall without finding himself burnt on the stake in “Christian” England.

To avoid these two modern hurdles director Christopher Johnson has removed the earthly issues of race and religion by transplanting the action and persona to the futuristic world of Star Trek.

Matt Harding strides the stage grandly as Tamburlaine with Jen Albert (who also stages the combat of which there’s plenty) as Zenocrate, by his side as he battles the Romulans and the Federation.

Johnson, as always shows a directorial flair that compared to most others is a nova, and his staging is wildly imaginative and flawless.

I must assume a majority of those seeing Klingon Tamburlaine will find it lacking, but not so fans of Star Trek and history buffs.

In addition, for those with a passion for theatre, here is a rare opportunity to see one of the most seminal plays in English history.Fringe Award-Gold Medal-The TVolution

For Johnson, Albert and the School of Night company ambition alone earns them –



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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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