Search

Tag

shakespeare

LMezz Interviews John Behlmann!

If you haven’t already heard of Three Day Hangover, you best be getting on the Shakespeare train. Three Day Hangover’s shows have been highlights of the 2013-2014 theatrical year, as they devise awesome ways to present you with a refreshing and insightful production before you drunk-text that friend you’ve always harbored feelings about.

 

January Lavoy and John Behlmann Perform a Rap Battle from R+J: Star-Cross'd Death Match
January Lavoy and John Behlmann Perform a Rap Battle from R+J: Star-Cross’d Death Match

They had their Big Boozy Benefit Dinner on Sunday to promote their new season (which you can learn more about and support at their Kickstarter page). Among the lineup for the dinner was John Behlmann, star of The 39 Steps (a brief obsession of mine in senior year of college) and last year’s amazing burlesque Eager to Lose at Ars Nova. And whaddaya know, Behlmann is also a trapeze performer, a rapper, and an all-around Prince Charming talented guy. We got to ask him about booze and Shakespeare.

LM: Drink of Choice?
JB: Bourbon on the rocks.

 

LM: Which Shakespearean character would you most like to party with and why?
JB: Definitely Falstaff, no question! Because he’s known for the party and his drinking. He wakes up, drinks, goes to sleep, and wakes up to do it all over again.

 

LM: What’s your hangover cure?
JB: Lots of sleep and some breakfast sandwiches with bacon and hot sauce.

 

LM: What kind of drunk are you?
JB: I’m like the attention-seeking, loud one. Like an overeager puppy
LM: No trapezing while drunk?
JB: Um. I would never suggest it.

 

LM: What drew you to Three Day Hangover’s Big Boozy Benefit?
JB: It’s all about the people. I respect the people and I get to work with people I know and who do great work. I got to see their production of “R+J: Star-Cross’d Death Match” and it was so great! Plus, I get to rap here, which is something I don’t always get to do.

LMezz Interviews Greg Hildreth!

We’re still basking in the glory from Sunday night’s Big Boozy Benefit for Three Day Hangover’s 2014 season. For the uninitiated, Three Day Hangover is a new theater company that combines drinking and Shakespeare in only the best and smartest ways. There’s no better way to feel like a badass than to be three drinks into the night and have a totally modern and reinvigorated love for that classy bard.

Among the line-up for the benefit was Greg Hildreth, who has appeared on Broadway in Peter and the Starcatcher and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and he’s a hilarious Youtube enthusiast. We’re big stalkers fans and jumped at the chance to interview him about all things drinking and Shakespeare…y’know… the important stuff.

Greg Hildreth and Company Perform 'Vienna Sucks' from "Beyond Measure," a rock musical adaptation of "Measure for Measure"
Greg Hildreth and Company Perform ‘Vienna Sucks’ from “Beyond Measure,” a rock musical adaptation of “Measure for Measure”

 

LM: Drink of Choice?
GH: Bulleit bourbon on the rocks.

 

LM: Which Shakespearean character would you most like to party with and why?
GH: Falstaff! I feel like we are the most similar. We are both loud, big guys who love to drink.

 

LM: What’s your hangover cure?
GH: Okay. Cooked eggs. Some coconut water. And a hair of the dog like a Bloody Mary.

 

LM: What kind of drunk are you?
GH: I’m a happy, fun drunk. The kind that likes to go karaoke at 2am.
LM: Follow-up then, what’s your go-to karaoke song?
GH: Anything Billy Joel.

 

LM: What drew you to Three Day Hangover’s Big Boozy Benefit?
GH: I think it’s really important to expose more people to Shakespeare, which is really what Three Day Hangover does best. Especially exposing drunk people to Shakespeare.

 

Look forward to Three Day Hangover’s 2014 season, which will include boozy productions of Twelfth Night, Uncle Vanya, and a TBA Two-For-One Shakespeare extravaganza! Learn more about the lineup, ways to support and get super awesome season passes at their Kickstarter page!

A Love Letter to Three Day Hangover

Dear Three Day Hangover,

You are one of my favorite new theatre companies. My love for you occurred at first sight, when I witnessed your debauched drinking game treatment of Denmark’s most troubled prince in The Hamlet ProjectThe romance only continued to heat up in your boozy adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, which envisioned Capulets and Montagues battling with flip cup and rap disses.

And now, I can profess my undying love for you after attending last night’s Big Boozy Benefit at Rockwood Music Hall. Your venue choice was impeccable, with an intimate performance spaceand a plentiful bar. Your set list was dazzling: not only did you give us highlights from the past season, but you also showed the other kinds of inebriated awesome you’re going to have in your 2014 season. With Rocky’s Jenny Mudge singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” as Viola in Twelfth Night and Liv Rooth as Yelena from Uncle Vanya playing Cards Against Humanity with audience members, I got more than psyched to see your upcoming productions.

Michael Emerson
Oh, and Michael Emerson performed Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be…” monologue. No big deal. (Photo by Ahron R. Foster)

But the best part of the night was seeing I wasn’t the only one who loved you. The whole New York theatre community has hearts in their eyes for you. Broadway performers and television stars gave their talents to you, taking the stage with your brilliant material. Actors and collaborators in your previous productions were drinking and cheering in the audience. And everyone involved got to share in the joyous revelry that is Three Day Hangover.

Cheers to a spectacular 2014 season!

Love, Norma

P.S. For those who missed the benefit (or attended and are still crazy generous), you can donate to Three Day Hangover’s Kickstarter for a “Freaking Awesome 2014 Season” here.
P.P.S. We’re not done loving Three Day Hangover. Stay tuned for upcoming posts, where we interview some of the Big Boozy Benefit’s guest performers.

 

London Part I: Richard II and Basking in David Tennant’s Glory

Happy New Year! Y’all are probably sick and tired of hearing it by now, but LMezz wishes you an awesome 2014!  I spent my New Year’s midnight 5 hours earlier than usual because I was in *say it with me now* Greenwich Mean Time Zone!

An accurate depiction of the jetlag I experienced

More specifically, I rang in the New Year at a Tex-Mex restaurant called Chiquito’s in Leicester Square in London because a) parties intimidate me and b) strawberry margaritas needed to happen.

London’s theatre scene is very similar to New York’s, but also rather different in some key ways. The West End and Broadway frequently trade-off musicals. Matilda and Twelfth Night/Richard III In Rep series are the latest British shipments to arrive on Broadway, while Book of Mormon and Once have gotten the overseas treatment.

Soooo ummmm I can haz Richard II on Broadway? Probably not. But crazier things have happened.

Lately, I’ve been scouring the internet for the best Richard II gif I can find. My ideal gif is one of David Tennant putting on his crown, which he does with a little hair flip. It’s possibly one of the most gorgeous things I’ve seen ever. I will find a clip of this. And I will learn to make gifs. And I will notify you when I provide this very important gift to mankind.

Second best gif AND OMG IS THAT GOLD NAIL POLISH?

Now, before I begin the review portion of my post, let me state that Richard II is actually NOT Richard III. You know that crooked old evil king whose remains were found in a parking lot? This isn’t that guy.

Richard II is one of Shakespeare’s earlier and lesser-performed plays. It doesn’t quite have the same dramatic legacy as your Hamlets or Julius Caesars, but it is very much a precursor to these later royal masterpieces about what happens when lines of succession are disrupted.  Richard II became king at ten years old. He has been historically characterized as narcissistic, beautiful, and possibly mentally ill in his later life. Shakespeare’s portrayal follows these characterizations pretty closely. Richard II is a king who seems disconnected from his people, yet his regality, confidence, and majesty inspire admiration. He is firm in his belief that he is God’s agent and chosen king. And in spite of his moral failings, he is incredibly introspective and sharp.

Because David Tennant is a heavenly creature, he is a perfect fit for Richard II. Sitting on his throne to solve the play’s opening quarrel, he looks firmly yet gracefully up towards heaven, as if symbolically seeking his divine inspiration from above, not from his own people. His walk is quick and effortless. We can certainly argue that Richard’s behavior is a performance. He knows how to gain the respect of his court, and his detached holier-than-thou act is just a power play. Yet, it is fascinating how easily Richard switches between very human traits like vulnerability and treachery, and his detached kingly persona. There’s an imposing aura of sanctity about it all– how one man can be so assured about his place in the world– and Tennant captures it perfectly.

This is probably where the hair comes in. David Tennant’s hair extensions (which he has kept in throughout the play’s run) made the internet rounds when the first official photos were released, and the general consensus was that they are horrifying to look at. As a longtime admirer of Tennant’s hair, I was heartbroken to see those long mousy locks and shaped eyebrows. Why would anybody do that to such perfect hair!

I would have given ANYTHING to be this girl

But having seen the play, I love the locks. The eyebrows can please get the ef out, but I love the locks. It is such an essential part of Richard’s character and it encompasses everything there is to know about him: his confidence, his privileging of the aesthetic over the practical, his femininity, his passivity. It’s just amazing. And I can see why Tennant keeps them in even in his off-time, but he has certainly learned how to own the hair oh-so-naturally.

And while we’re on the never-ending subject of how perfect David Tennant is, can I just say how perfect David Tennant is? His acting choices always surprise me, and yet they feel so natural and essential. Every word and gesture is deliberate and important, and yet it never seems like his performance is overly calculated or over-the-top. He has an obvious passion and intellect for the text, and seems like the perfect person to pore over a book with.  David, please join my book club.

This king takes his throne, y'all.
This king takes his throne, y’all.

Of course, the play is about more than just Richard II’s reign; it’s also about the guy who kills him. Richard is deposed via methods that are just as deceitful as his reign. There’s tons of ambiguity in this play– who killed who? did he really order that guy killed? did that kiss actually really just happen?– and Richard’s successor Henry Bollingbroke, while different in personality, turns out to be just as crafty.

But you know. Without the hair.

Richard II was performed at an incredibly unique space in London called The Barbican. I’ve visited this space once before and it really feels like the future of theatrical spaces. First of all, this space doesn’t just house a theater. It is also home to a school, a night club, a restaurant, a gallery, and several other venues. It’s kind of an all-for-one go-to stop for culture. The closest thing in New York might be The Public Theater in the East Village, or possibly Lincoln Center without the schmaltz. Secondly, the Barbican theater space is super comfortable. There’s plenty of legroom, and no seat is a bad seat. The only theater I’ve been in that has felt better than this is the Olivier Theater at the National Theater in London. Spaces like this make theater feel more accessible, and attract a wider audience than those that might typically see a Shakespeare play, or really any play for that matter.

Okay, this concludes Part I of my London Theater Reflections/Fangirling. Next up I’ll talk about a VERY different play that has been earning rave reviews called Mojo and some not so fun theatrical spaces.

‘R & J: Star Cross’d Death’ Match Brings Flip Cups and Catharsis Under One Roof (and Sidewalk))

“This isn’t your grandmother’s Shakespeare,” producer, actor, and Flip Master David Hudson announces at the start of the show. He’s right. Neither is it much like the two adaptations of Romeo and Juliet currently playing simultaneously (one on Broadway starring Orlando Bloom, the other from Classic Stages with Elizabeth Olsen), nor like the upcoming Hollywood release.

For some reason, everyone’s freshman-year required reading is a hot commodity right now, but I’d bet none of these big-budget productions gets as fresh a take on the Bard as Three Day Hangover, the acting company behind last month’s The Hamlet Project and now, R&J: Star Cross’d Death Match.

The selling point for both of those productions was the chance to get your boozy Shakespeare on. Hosted on the top level of what was once Harley’s Smokeshack, an event space with a full bar, the shows feature drinking games, audience participation (which usually involve some sort of drinking as a reward/punishment), and several rounds of flip cup. If you have followed through with the company’s boozy encouragements, you should have a drink or two under your belt by intermission.

But alcohol isn’t the only thing ‘Three Day Hangover’ brings to their Shakespearean productions. This company knows how to have fun, but they also know how to re-envision these classic plays for a contemporary audience. What results is a theatrical experience that is alternately silly and poignant, fun and dramatic.

Take the famous balcony scene, for example. In R&J, the audience stands, for the most part, and follows the actors (headed by Nick Mills and Suzy Jane Hunt) around the room wherever the action is. The room goes dark and a light shines on Juliet (Hunt) sitting by a window, as she beautifully recites her “What’s in a name?” monologue. All of a sudden, Romeo calls out to her… and he’s actually down below on the motherflippin’ sidewalk! Audience members who have probably scored a one-on-one in Sleep No More were smart enough to keep tabs on Romeo in the dark followed him out and get to witness a true balcony scene from below, as oblivious New Yorkers walk past in confusion. Mills and Hunt capture R&J’s giddy love perfectly and though they’re not teenagers like their characters, their performances are youthful, exciting, unpredictable, and realistic.

Nick Mills and Suzy Jane Hunt
Nick Mills and Suzy Jane Hunt

The show also captures these elemental strengths in the rest of the production. One way is by ‘updating’ some of Shakespeare’s language, dispersing contemporary references and lingo into the play. My personal favorite example of this comes from The Hamlet Project, where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ask, “What do you read, my lord?” and Hamlet responds, “Words, words, ‘words with friends.'” For R&J, this means plentiful uses of “homie,” “oh my god,” and other phrases you’d find in a public high school. Modern updates on old language forms might become annoying, but R&J’s incorporation of such language is always used with discretion to sometimes comedic, often emotional effect. R&J also uses pop music interludes to highlight certain scenes to fun effect, most notably the song that comes after R&J have sex for the first time (to name it would spoil it).

The Cast of R&J
The Cast of R&J

R&J does drama too, and there’s obviously plenty of it in Shakespeare. One of my favorite scenes comes right after Romeo is banished. This production cleverly takes two separate scenes (one in which Juliet reacts to the banishment with her nurse, the other in which Romeo talks with the Friar) and simultaneously enacts them, recreating the emotional chaos disrupting the lovers’ newlywed bliss. It’s powerful, and it takes liberties that no Broadway production, Off-Broadway production, or film, could probably ever get away with.

R&J plays through October 4 at what was once Harley’s Smokeshack, 356 W. 44th Street.

Contemporary Shakespeare: “OT” and “The HAMLET Project”

William Shakespeare may have lived and died centuries ago, but artists continue to find new ways to present his work to contemporary audiences. Here are two projects that work to reinvent the Bard’s classics:

“OT”

British spoken word artist Charlie Dupré released a music video retelling of Othello earlier this month. The piece is part of his ongoing project, “The Stories of Shakey P,” a collection of Shakespeare plays retold as rap songs. “OT” does a good job of breaking down Othello in a succinct, entertaining way, while also making it specific to contemporary British youth. The song also has a chorus reminiscent of Dido’s verses in “Stan”—sad, evocative, and crazy catchy.

hamletprojectnewyork
To drink, or not to drink: That’s not a question.

THE HAMLET PROJECT

The appropriately named Three Day Hangover is making Shakespeare a part of New York City nightlife with its highly energized bar-themed productions of the Bard’s plays. The HAMLET Project, which had a summer run at Harley’s Smokeshack, advertises itself as a “Shakespeare drinking theatrical event.” And boy, does it deliver. Cast members, armed with noisemakers, alert the audience to take shots throughout the show. (One cue guaranteed to kill your sobriety is to take a drink whenever a character says the word “king.”) The cast isn’t spared, either. Whenever a character dies, a bonus game called “Heaven or Hell” ensues, where the audience votes whether a deceased character goes to heaven (a shot of whiskey) or hell (a cup of boxed wine). At the performance I attended, only the actor playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern visited heaven’s gates.

Hamlet and company might drop more f-bombs than Shakespeare ever intended, and die-hard Shakespeare purists may not be pleased with Three Day Hangover’s liberal treatment of the text. Though it was on the irreverent side, many scenes still kept their dramatic gravity. The ghost scenes, in particular, were some of the best I’ve ever seen in a production of Hamlet (the ghost taking on the form of a homeless man notwithstanding).

Their next show, a treatment on Romeo and Juliet titled The R+J Experience: Star-Cross’d Death Match, premieres tonight at Harley’s Smokeshack—and I will definitely be attending. For more information, check out Three Day Hangover’s website.

Get Thee to a… Bar? A Conversation with “The Hamlet Project”

1 - David Hudson as Hamlet in The HAMLET Project - Photo by Lloyd Mulvey
David Hudson as Hamlet in The HAMLET Project (Photo by Lloyd Mulvey).

The Hamlet Project, a “A Shakespeare Drinking Theatrical Event” has been such a blast in a glass, it’s been extended until August 26th. I met the creative team (David Hudson, who is playing Hamlet, director Beth Gardiner, and producer Lori Wolter Hudson), and got to know more about this less-than-sober production:

Whose idea was this? How did it come about?

Beth: The Hamlet Project was born in Los Angeles in 2011. It was the idea of an actor and a director that David and I went to graduate school with at UC Irvine. They wanted to do a fun, unpretentious production of Hamlet that they could repeat over and over again in different ways. They cut the script and started a production in downtown Los Angeles. Fast-forward a couple of years, and I’m out here, David’s out here, Lori’s out here, and we thought it would be really awesome to do that here. We got the rights to do the script and made a very “New York” take on what it means to do Hamlet in a bar in New York.

David: We did a production in March in a little bar in Williamsburg. We did two nights and it was awesome.

Beth: It was ridiculous. The response was amazing.

Lori: We sold out both nights, and everybody said they wanted to see more of it.

David: The three of us got together and decided to do this incarnation of it in rep with a drinking game version of Romeo and Juliet that we are premiering in September.

Have you workshopped the Romeo and Juliet script yet?

David: We’ve done some read-throughs, and we’re about to start rehearsals as soon as we open Hamlet. Lori’s directing it, and because it is a very new project, will be more developmental.

Lori: It’s going to be a little more interactive.

David: The great thing about The Hamlet Project is that it is different night-to-night and it’s totally different every time that it’s done, and that’s what we really like about it. It’s totally unpretentious. We can’t be precious with it. We just have to do it 110% and get the audience really excited and involved with it. And it changes each time that we do it.

Beth: And the bar spaces are so small that we’re very close to the audience, in their lap, acting around them at times, drinking with them…

Lori: Don’t be surprised if an actor steals your beer.

Beth: I think it’s a really exciting night of story-telling. It’s drinking, it’s fun, it’s lighthearted, and then it’s also this great story with this great language with good actors doing it. It can’t help but be amazing.

What captured me about The Hamlet Project was despite the high concept absurdity of it all, the idea of bringing this play to where people congregate in New York City as natural audiences connects directly to Shakespeare.

Beth: Its definitely the Groundling’s version of Hamlet.

David: When you think about it, it’s down on that base level. There’s some great stuff happening with it, but it’s happening in a place where everyone is congregating.

What can audiences expect beside direct addresses and some drink stealing?

Beth: They’ll get Hamlet–the story of Hamlet–and they’ll get some twists that we incorporating. Hamlet has a play-within-a-play, and we offer up that play to be performed in a number of genres that the audience can vote on.

Lori: Polonius will be played by an audience member. That is decided when you get to the bar that night. It’s just whoever shows up.

Beth: There are drinking games when characters die.

What would be Hamlet’s drink of choice?

David: So much pressure.

Don’t say draft beer.

Beth: Nooooo.

David: Hamlet’s a whiskey man. I think probably in this production he’s a Manhattan man. Because we are in…

Beth: New York City!

David: He’s a rye Manhattan man. He likes it a little hard.

For more information on “The Hamlet Project,” check out their website: http://www.hamletprojectnewyork.com/

Sigh No More! Reasons Why Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado” is Amazing!

I hereby bestow on Joss Whedon the ability to adapt any bloody work of Shakespeare he so wishes into film (I believe that’s part of my abilities as an ex- English Major). And here’s why:

1) We Missed You, Whedonverse!

Audiences have been treating Much Ado as some weird departure from regular Joss Whedon material. Most of the man’s work comprises of action-adventure/ scifi-fantasy genre work with slick-talking, butt-kicking protagonists and large-scale production work. And yea, I guess when you put it that way, it does seem like a surprise move to follow the third highest grossing film of all time with a micro-budget, Shakespearean adaptation shot in Whedon’s house with actors whose names don’t rhyme with Bobert Mowney Punior.

BUT, I’d argue that Much Ado is very much in vein with Whedon’s work– in fact, much more so than The Avengers franchise. Five minutes into Much Ado and you get the odd sense that you’ve seen this before. The bound-for-love couple who express their love for each other with insults and denial.  The miscommunications that deeply wound otherwise wonderful relationships. The unique balance of a sharp, fun, and nuanced script with plenty of physical comedy. Like any good ‘auteur,’ Whedon takes his themes, his dramatic structure, his characters, from one of the greatest sources of Western storytelling and incorporates them into his unique creative vision, whether it be that of a teenage girl fighting big baddies or of rogue soldiers on the fringes of the galaxy. Shakespeare seems to be everywhere in contemporary culture, but Whedon truly knows how to use it for meet his own vision as a storyteller.

Also, how much fun was it to see our favorites from the Whedonverse! Who knows why Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker haven’t had roles as exciting as their Angel characters? Those two are just brilliant. Luckily, their versatility and charm are on full effect in Much Ado. Every time a Whedonverse actor appeared on screen, 50% of the audience gave a happy squeal (Andrew! was most audible) and with reason– Whedon’s assembled a great bunch of people over the years to do his bidding. The more, the merrier!

Get it, get it! Wes and Fred 4 Lyfe

2) LESS IS MORE

Like any normal six-year old, I regularly watched Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 adaptation of Much Ado. My 16 year old sister insisted I be a cultured second grader. This same sister also introduced me to Buffy and Angel and Firefly. (Come to think of it, she’d probably be a better source about the connections between Billy Shakes and Jossy Weed than me). Branagh’s version always existed as a kind of model for the way Much Ado plays out, so much so that even the Tennant/Tate partnership last year took came in second to it (you know, on the list I have on my wall next to my bed of the best Shakespeare adaptations ever.)

Tennant and Tate are chums…

…but Branagh and Thompson get it done

Rather than go for Branagh’s Italian villa setting or the Donmar’s 1980’s shindig, Whedon’s Much Ado is much simpler. The black-and-white movie, filmed completely in Whedon’s palace home, makes for some strikingly nuanced yet affirming visuals, and allows Shakespeare’s word to vibrate unhindered throughout the story. Maybe that’s why audiences seem surprised that they are actually able to understand the story in Whedon’s film. They’re unmediated, direct, and resounding.  (That being said, check out both other adaptations if the interest moves you. I personally like Branagh’s but the trick scenes in the Tennant/Tate production are pretty wonderful).

3) I don’t have a three. I guess…. Shakespeare’s awesome and I’m so glad that artists continue to push the boundaries of his work. Go team!

Andrew and Mal thank you for your time.

The Comedy of Errors at Shakespeare in the Park

When I took a Shakespeare class in college, The Comedy of Errors was the first play we read. I remember gearing up, collecting all my English major prowess, ready to tackle probably the best writer of the English language.

Well, Comedy of Errors ain’t no Hamlet. This fact can be a little frustrating (especially if you dived into the play expecting roaring soliloquies and poignant cultural critique) but for the most part, it’s amazingly refreshing. Errors pretty much allows you to sit back and enjoy the ride, which comes complete with lots of laughs and a happy ending.

Shakespeare in the Park’s Errors is perfectly cast. I’ve only seen Hamish Linklater in three roles but those three have shown me what a versatile and engaging actor he is. Jesse Tyler Ferguson also gets back to his theater roots, displaying his great comedic timing, nuanced delivery, and altogether fun presence (Let me take this moment to gloat that I saw 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for my birthday several years ago and then saw JTF in a theater lobby a few months ago and I said hi and told him that he was awesome and he was really kind and okay I’m done now).

Together, Linklater and Ferguson have excellent chemistry as Antipholus and Dromio… or should I say, Antipholi and Dromios. You see, they play sets of twins– one from the play’s setting, Ephesus, and the other from nearby Syracuse. The Antipholi were separated in a shipwreck, along with their servants the Dromios. Antipholus of Syracuse arrives at Ephesus with his Dromio to search for his Ephesian brother. The Syracuse set are usually played as well-mannered and more civilized than their Ephesian counterparts, and this production plays along with the trope. It’s quite fun to see both actor get to play aristocrats as well as seedy bullies in the same play.

It also means that the duo are on stage for nearly the whole play. Scene changes are aided by swing dance interludes, some clever trap doors, and presumably a lot of running on Linklater’s and Ferguson’s parts.

While I praise the acting, I felt that there were a lot of strange choices in the show that were probably done with comedic intent but fell a bit flat. Every five or so minutes there would be a joke that felt stale, out-of-place, or just a bit uncomfortable to watch. Take for example, Egeon’s puppet and boat shtick during his expository monologue. As he describes his sons’ separation, he pulls out four dolls and a ship mast from his briefcase, and virtually acts out the shipwreck with puppets. I mean, I guess it was cute? The only way I felt it was funny was in a self-referential way– Egeon’s LONG monologue is notorious as evidence that Shakespeare was still getting the hang of things in this early work. Thus, a puppet show might have been kind of like saying “Yea, we know this bit is long and boring and we don’t really know what else to do with it *shake fist at Shakespeare*” But honestly, you’re Shakespeare in the Park. AND you’ve got Hamish Linklater and Jesse Tyler Ferguson waiting in the wings to come out which you guys do a puppet show? And you couldn’t figure out a more clever or creative way to get this done?

There are other jokes and gags that just felt inappropriate or unfunny. The gorgeous De’Andre Aziza has her comedic talent wasted by relegating her to shaking her boobs and making funny faces behind a nun’s back. Huh? Even JTF and Linklater had some lines that never really found their mark, not particularly because of their delivery but because of mismatched environments or missed set-ups. There were a few moments throughout the play when the actors interrupted the script with more contemporary interjections, which could have been funny but instead felt like pandering to a supposedly text-savvy contemporary audience.

Oh, and guess what? When you have one actor playing two characters, what are you supposed to do when those two characters finally meet on stage in the last scene? If you’re the Public Theater, you do something clever, something witty, something self-referential and pointed. You DON’T have two random cast members fill in for the missing characters, keep their backs turned to the audience, and give all their lines to their counterparts so they don’t have to speak. Honestly, everyone in the audience is waiting to see what the Public will do when the brothers finally confront each other. We know there’s only one actor, that’s part of the marvel of the rest of the play. The choice to step around the falseness of the last scene and ignore it instead of confronting it head-on with some hilarious new possibility (Think something along the lines of the ‘fifth actor’ in The 39 Steps)– that choice kills the tone of the play’s ending. Errors’s ending is supposed to inspire brotherhood and community. Brotherhood is not trying to get away with having faceless, voiceless actors play parts that the audience knows don’t actually belong to them.

To end on a positive note, though, much of Errors does hit its mark. You’ve got kitchen appliances, demonic possessions, a faux-Freud psychologist, a fat lady being compared to a globe in an epic extended metaphor, some Python-esque running around, nuns with guns, mobsters recitating Shakespeare with accents from The Sopranos, and tons more. Not to mention a bright, revolving set that is almost as entrancing as the actors on stage.

P.S. Even though Errors is most likely the lightest of Shakespeare’s comedies, there’s a lot of interesting themes to look into. In my Shakespeare class, we looked at the play as a troubled reflection on a rapidly industrializing and mercantile Elizabethan London, where citizens are surrounded by strangeness and can’t seem to find their way in the world. Also, does anyone else see a similarity between Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw and Errors?  Plot-wise they’re pretty goshdarn similar, minus the cross-dresssing, and the ending is pretty interesting if you consider the role of the family in restoring the social status quo. I totally don’t miss school, if you can’t tell.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: