July 26, 2004

Verily y'all missed a goodly sport . . .

'twas indeed a big weekend for the SC Skeleton Crew, here holding down the fort in our remote East Texas outpost for the entirety of the summer. We had tickets for the "Texas Shakespeare Festival" this weekend, and Gallagher came to town.


We saw a performance of The Tempest on Friday night, and The Merchant of Venice on Saturday night. I had suggested on Thursday that we attend both performances decked out in full Elizabethan garb (thinking, of course, that if people can go see Episode I dressed up like Qui-Gon Jinn, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to attend "The Merchant of Venice" in Shylockian attire). The suggestion was not met with a good deal of enthusiasm, and to tell the truth, I was certain that it would involve far too much effort on my part anyway.

When we arrived at the theater in Kilgore, however, Anna noticed two women (who looked to be in their forties or fifties) who had stolen my idea. That is to say, they would have been able to blend in seamlessly at a Ren Faire. We were highly amused.

Tempest isn't exactly the best comedy ever, but I was fairly entertained throughout. The acting wasn't as strong as in Merchant, but obviously I didn't know that at the time. Some of the costumes were rather special . . . (I shall simply point out that a few of the cast members could have used codpieces and leave it at that). Ariel's costume practically wasn't, so to speak (although her problem had nothing to do with the lack of a codpiece, naturally).

I didn't care for Prospero's costume in particular . . . it just didn't say "all-powerful uber-sorceror" somehow. Scholl thought they were going for the "Greek oracle" look. Maybe. I also didn't care for the attire of the random spirits. Their outfits said something like "I am an orange hospital orderly dual-wielding Mexican piņatas."

This notwithstanding, the strongest acting in Tempest came from Caliban (a hideous monster who unwillingly serves Prospero . . . he was quite excellent), the two drunken sailors (Stephano and Trinculo, they provide the bulk of the comic relief when Caliban switches his allegience to them and their "celestial liquor"), and the elderly counselor, Gonzalo (a very Polonius-like character).

I'm not a huge fan of love stories that involve naive girls falling in love with the first men they've ever seen aside from their fathers (and, in this case, Caliban), but aside from that the plot is entertaining. The King of Naples was fairly wooden in his role, and Ariel was giving off a heavy weirdness vibe with her constant swaying and arm waving (as if she were a lighter-than-air floating spirit . . . or possibly both drunk and high). Prospero, Miranda, and Ferdinand were solid enough.

The general atmosphere of the entire thing, particularly in the stage decoration and lighting, produced a very surreal effect . . . on purpose I'm sure. The bizarre designs and lighting were a bit distracting to the eye, but all things considered, 'twas good enough.

Merchant came off quite a bit better when we went the next night. It was the final performance, and I should note that all of the actors from Tempest were in Merchant except the guy who played Prospero. Almost all of them seemed a good deal more comfortable in their Merchant roles with the exception of Antonio (The Merchant himself) who had played Trinculo. He was okay. So were Bassanio (Sebastian), Jessica (Ariel), and Lorenzo (Ferdinand).

Shylock, played by the same guy who played the King of Naples, was magnificent in all respects, thank goodness. Portia (Miranda) and Nerissa had excellent rapport. Launcelot Gobbo was loads of fun to watch. Gratiano (Stephano) and Salerio (Caliban) were hilarious. Tubal (Gonzalo), though a small part, was solidly delivered.

Particularly noteworthy, if only because of what it required of the actor involved, were the Duke of Venice, Prince of Morocco, and Prince of Arragon . . . all played by the same guy. I thought that was funny because, as I recall, Martinez played all three of those same parts (in addition to playing Lorenzo, Stephano, and Leonardo) in our version.

All three parts were very notably discharged . . . even Arragon (who was flagrantly gay . . . as gay as Paris in the spring, as it were . . . I'm still not sure quite why he was wife-hunting).

The costumes were largely late 19th century (fairly standard thing to do, I suppose). Gratiano and Lorenzo wore blinding shades of pink/peach and cream that would put even Dr. Roden to shame, but most of the other costumes were reasonably conservative in comparison. Anna complained that Jessica was obviously wearing a wig, but I wouldn't have known that this was the case had I not seen her real hair the night before. Morocco had the usual white robe, fez, and . . . large scimitar. Arragon . . . all black and silver, excessively tight pants, shirt with a severely ruffled collar and wrists and sharply plunging neckline to mid-chest or so. Scary.

The stage design worked a lot better for this one, I thought. Nice, shiny, marble-looking floor . . . a few (three, I think) columns off to the left . . . large, ornate, arched facade off to the right, with a few shallow, rounded steps leading up to it . . . equally large, flat circle hanging in back to fill in the empty space (the lighting changed its color each time we changed locations). Simple, easy on the eyes, not intrusive . . . All in all, an exceedingly enjoyable production.

And that is my first (and probably only, for awhile) attempt at being a dramatic critic. I'll end this little piece by tossing in this shamelessly arbitrary, and all but totally irrelevent, but still reasonably amusing paragraph on William Shakespeare that I stumbled across today while reading my latest Lemony Snicket book.

There is another writer I know, who, like myself, is thought by a great deal of people to be dead. His name is William Shakespeare, and he has written four kinds of plays: comedies, romances, histories, and tragedies. Comedies, of course, are stories in which people tell jokes and trip over things, and romances are stories in which people fall in love and probably get married. Histories are retellings of things that actually happened, like my history of the Baudelaire orphans, and tragedies are stories that usually begin fairly happily and then steadily go downhill, until all of the characters are dead, wounded, or otherwise inconvenienced. It is usually not much fun to watch a tragedy, whether you are in the audience or one of the characters, and out of all Shakespeare's tragedies possibly the least fun example is King Lear, which tells the story of a king who goes mad while his daughters plot to murder one another and other people who are getting on their nerves. Toward the end of the play, one of William Shakespeare's characters remarks that "Humanity must perforce prey upon itself, like monsters of the deep," a sentence which here means "How sad it is that people end up hurting one another as if they were ferocious sea monsters," and when the character utters those unhappy words, the people in Shakespeare's audience often weep, or sigh, or remind themselves to see a comedy next time.
Posted by Jared at July 26, 2004 04:43 PM | TrackBack