Machiavelli’s “The Mandrake” Gets Contemporary Adaptation in Theatre Arts Production

Nicolo Machiavelli’s 16th-century devious comedy “The Mandrake” gets a 20th-century adaptation in four performances of Lawrence University’s theatre production. The play will be staged March 3-5 at 8 p.m. with an additional 3 p.m. matinee on March 5 in Cloak Theatre of the Music-Drama Center.

Tickets, at $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students, are available through the Lawrence University Box Office, 920-832-6749.

The adaptation, written by Timothy X. Troy, professor of theatre arts and J. Thomas and Julie Esch Hurvis Professor of Theatre and Drama, sets the play in 1962 in Florence, Italy. The fast-paced conspiracy follows Callimaco, a young man smitten with the beautiful, virtuous and, unfortunately for him, already-married Lucrezia. Nicia, Lucrezia’s husband, is an educated, but-not-overly-bright tightwad who desperately wants children. Six years into his marriage, though, he has yet to produce any offspring. The story cleverly unfolds in a twisting and twisted pattern.

Among Troy’s tweaks to the original story is having Callimaco return to Italy from America, rather than Paris. The change provided director Kathy Privatt numerous possibilities for interesting music choices.

“We’ve compiled a playlist that includes American hits from the late 50’s-early 60’s and Italian pop songs from the same period, including some directly influenced by the U.S., and Elvis in particular,” said Privatt, associate professor of theatre arts and James G. and Ethel M. Barber Professor of Theatre and Drama.

An original story by Machiavelli, rather than an adaptation of a Greek or Roman source as was common at the time, Privatt says “The Mandrake” still has the ability to surprise us today.

“Choosing to direct this adaptation of Machiavelli’s work was easy,” said Privatt. “Tim’s adaptation stays true to the events in the original script, keeping the events in Florence but giving it a bit more contemporary time frame. That change gives us more ways to connect to the ideas in the play as well as reminding us that history does repeat itself.

“Best of all, with its fast-paced fun, this play requires our actors to be at the top of their game where the stakes are greatest and so are the rewards.”

Senior Nate Peterson portrays the love-struck Callimaco. Junior Aubrey Neuman plays the smart, young Lucrezia, while freshman Eric Smedsrud is cast as her homebody husband Nicia. Senior Kyle Brauer portrays Ligurio, the scheming mastermind behind the plan that drives the play.