Is Dumbo megadeveloper David Walentas the inspiration for the adaptation of an Elizabethan play that opens tomorrow night in the arty turned pricey hood? Spring Theaterworks is staging Arden: The Lamentable Tragedie of a Dumbo Real Estate Mogul. It’s the 1592 play Arden of Feveresham, which chronicles the gory end of a shady landowner (and some say was written by Shakespeare), relocated to modern-day Dumbo, where Arden lives in a sleek loft space. As for Walentas, he nearly single-handedly converted the area’s old industrial hulks into luxury condos, and he both supported and displaced local artists as he did it. He’s not named in the new script, but everyone’s buzzing that the lushly maned macher is the model for the new Arden, whose onstage death is plotted by his wife and her lover. (Walentas’ real-life wife, Jane, has plotted only to restore an old carousel — at least as far as anyone knows.)
Jeffrey Horne, the 31-year-old Dumbo renter who’s producing the play, says that the story’s doomed titan “could be Walentas or several other moguls here,” such as Shaya Boymelgreen or Josh Guttman. But he concedes that “Walentas is the most prominent.” So is the message that Walentas will meet a bad end? “Not literally,” insists Horne, saying the play shows Arden’s softer side (he really loves his two-timing wife). Still, “that doesn’t let him off the hook” for his land-grabbiness, says Horne, just as Walentas shouldn’t be excused for walling Dumbo off to a plain old supermarket where the area’s diminishing non-rich residents could shop.
Walentas has been invited to see the show but hasn’t replied, says Horne. Walentas’s rep, Barbara Wagner at Rubenstein, gave “a resounding no comment” — before saying it wasn’t fair that a man who’d subsidized space for local arts groups like the St. Ann’s Warehouse should be (indirectly) pilloried. “This is an incredibly generous man,” she said. —Tim Murphy
UPDATE: The blog Dumbo NYC says today that Walentas wants to build a residential tower on the current location of St. Ann’s Warehouse. Incredibly generous, indeed.
CORRECTION, April 18: Jeffrey Horne is the producer of Arden: The Lamentable Tragedie of a Dumbo Real Estate Mogul, not the director, as this item original stated. Michelle Salerno is the director.