The source for Decameron Nights is Giovanni Boccaccio’s, The Decameron., a collection of 100 stories told over the course of ten days by a group of young people, who have left the city of Florence to escape the Black Death in 1348.
The stories themselves - from the tragic to the comic, the moral to the purely entertaining - are notable for their wit, urbanity, tenderness, and their infinite possibilities for both tragedy and comedy.
Cavander and Peaslee selected several of those stories to adapt into a chamber musical - choosing tales in which women are the driving force, outwitting men, but in the end putting love and freedom above convention and rigid male hierarchy.
The resulting production, originally entitled Boccaccio, went from a showcase at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, by way of several reincarnations, to Broadway. Cavander directed the Williamstown version, where it attracted the attention of Zelda Fichandler, Artistic Director of the Arena Stage in Washington. D.C., who presented it at the Arena’s Kreeger Theatre. From there it went to the Edison Theatre in New York and subsequently to several regional theatres, most notably Seattle’s A Contemporary Theatre, proving to be a popular show with audiences each time.
This updated version ties the selected stories together into a framing narrative that deepens the relationship between the young people (seven of them, in this case) who have taken refuge from the Plague.
In the course of the night, through their reactions to the stories they hear, the young people gradually reveal secrets about themselves; tension grows as these revelations build to a mystery and ultimately, a climactic confrontation.
As a result Decameron Nights works on two levels — the stricken world in which these seven people hope to survive the plague, and the fantasy world into which they escape in the stories they tell each other. As these two parallel sets of events unfold, we start to see connections between the original seven characters and the ’characters’, more than a score of them, from all walks of life, who populate the tales. Part of the fun for an audience is in making these connections for themselves without having them pointed out by the actors.
The tone of the piece is fast-paced, iconoclastic, and youthful. Its production requirements are modest and flexible — unit set, a band that can range from solo piano to five pieces, simple costumes, minimal props.
"A shimmering web of illusion and debunking unravels before our eyes." John Simon, New York Magazine.
"Sophisticated, hilarious, immensely clever" Washington Post [For complete coverage of earlier versions go to Press »]