For the past few years, the only theater I’ve been going to has been Shakespeare. The rest of Broadway just doesn’t appeal to me: plays based on TV shows, on movies, and revivals of earlier plays seem to dominate the main theaters. The off-Broadway scene is filled with stuff that I find unappealing, even offensive in their deliberate crassness (but I guess that’s exactly what they are shooting for, and achieving, and getting…the lack of my patronage). I guess I’m becoming more and more of a stick in the mud and just don’t have the patience for those that want to try it.
But Shakespeare is still playing here and there and I really enjoy seeing it. The stories are timeless, the language difficult to parse until you get into the swing of it, and the prices are great.
Yesterday, I went to “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot”, not to be confused with the celebrity-driven Shakespeare in the Park. And you wouldn’t confuse them if were you there. The Parking Lot version has…well, it’s a parking lot in the Lower East Side. They have some chairs, but I took my own and so did a lot of others. They spread some blankets to let a few people sit on “less uncomfortable” asphalt. And the show is “in the round”, where actors came and went from the very cheap stage from four separate directions. The only props were a dressmaker’s dummy, yardsticks for swords, a letter opener for a dagger, and red ribbons to symbolize blood.
Oh, and a kazoo. The first Shakespeare I’ve seen with a kazoo. And it was properly used. I really liked it. And I’m thankful to the cast that is was used only at the first and even then was sparingly used. It really gave a good touch to the scene, though.
The play was Julius Caesar and it was free to attend (Huzzah!). It had a twist, though. They changed the scene from Rome in 44BC to…a school education board election. I guess still in 44BC and including swords and assassinations. But the beauty of it was that the text was pure Shakespeare. They didn’t change the lines, although they probably deleted a whole bunch of stuff that I didn’t miss. They also changed the gender of a bunch of the characters. For example, Marcus Antonius was played by a female (Ivory Aquino, who might be this). And nicely played, too. She hardly had any lines besides the “Friends, Romans, countryman…” speech; but it’s a long, long one and she handled it very well (although I always viewed the line “And Brutus is an honorable man” as pure sarcasm, but perhaps I’m wrong in that or that this is just an interpretation).
My favorite performance was that of Cassius, played by another woman, Selene Beretta. She did really well and I thoroughly enjoyed her work. I’m going to cheap out and not cite the others, but I really did enjoy all of their work and just don’t have the patience or the time to detail all the stuff I loved (among others: Hamilton Clancy’s performance as Julius Caesar, his humorous introduction to the play, the original music, the soothsayer/poet’s performance, the off-stage chanting, the seriousness of Mark Jeter’s Brutus, the creative use of that dressmaker dummy…). Okay, I started something I shouldn’t have because the cast was excellent and I know I’m forgetting bits and pieces I wanted to remember and cite (…the opening scene with the cobbler weaseling his way out of a confrontation…the assassination scene done so well in the round…the lackadaisical performance of the servant). Okay, I’m bad at this. All in all, well done.
However, I do admit that open air Shakespeare is hurt by motorcycles passing by in the neighborhood. And strangely enhanced by having a couple of officers in a police car watching for a while. They didn’t seem to be there for the murder, though.
I have to admit that I really don’t understand the reason for staging the play as if it were a school board election. It really was mentioned only at the very beginning, but the contents didn’t allude to an election after about four minutes into the play. From what I read on Oobr.com, they used it as a way to let them cast more women in the play. I don’t think it was necessary. In fact, I thought the females held their own as the characters without the need for the backstory.
It’s playing for another week. The Drilling Company puts it on.