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Shakespeare: The Cartoon!

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Jun. 11th, 2006 | 03:28 am
location: Mountain View
mood: awake

Friday night, I went to see Merry Wives of Windsor with ternarybits, guardmisfit, eviladmin, shallwedance_, chimerically, dag29580863, dshis516 and a few other UCBD types who don't, at least to the best of my knowledge, have livejournals at CalShakes.

The show was good, for what it was (a presentation of Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor done using puppets to represent many of the characters). The puppets were both clever and beautiful, and seamlessly integrated into the show in their interactions with live characters. Falstaff, particularly, worked as a puppet -- a character that could easily be played as grotesque was, in his way, charming. And since Merry Wives is to some extent a forerunner to farce, the rich, vibrant colors and general over-the-top playing weren't necessarily a bad idea (and the Frenchman using a large corkscrew as his "rapier" was a particularly amusing touch)

Sadly, however, I found myself feeling like I was watching "Shakespeare for Dummies," or a cartoon adaptation of Shakespeare designed to appeal to a very young audience, as many of the jokes were reduced to little more than ill timed farts, sneezes, and other varieties of slapstick comedy. While I like (generally) Shakespeare performances that make archaic text simple, understandable and relevant, but I have seen many productions that do this in such a way that the Bard's wit and the richness of the language with which he wrote isn't lost in the process. For this production, it didn't matter much what the characters were saying (except, perhaps, for a few key phrases -- "aye, forsooth!" and "hand me my rrrrrapier!") as most of the action was conveyed through movement and sound effects. In fact, many of the scenes were strongly reminiscent of the old Warner Brothers Roadrunner-Coyote cartoons, which tell a story mostly through gags.

I missed the richness of the language, and the complexity of the issues dealt with in Shakespearean plays in general. While I hate Shakespeare performances that are heavy-handed in advancing a social or political agenda, I equally dislike performances that ignore all of the real issues that are brought up in the text (and there are many, even in the comedies). Scheming and jealousy are not issues to be glossed over; yet this production made the jealous husband to be a fool for the entirety of the play. The unfortunate consequence of doing this is that all of the tension in the play, all of its heart and humanity is lost, and the play becomes merely a vehicle for slapstic gags.

But, for what it was, it was a good piece of entertainment.

Since we happened to be there on the evening of the "Big Shindig" for this performance, a new attempt to encourage younger audiences to seek out, appreciate and support live theatre by having a post-show party complete with spiked beverages, a DJ and s'mores made on George Foreman grills (one of the more unique ways of making s'mores that I've encountered thus far, I must say), there was food and drink and dancing to be enjoyed afterwards before heading over to chimerically and dag29580863's apartment for tea and chatting and other general silliness.

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from: guardmisfit
date: Jun. 12th, 2006 05:54 am (UTC)

I enjoyed it, once I figured out what was going on with the help of the plot synopsis :P. (I had trouble following who each character was and thus what was going on in the beginning...). And having never actually read it (thus the not knowing what was going on), I couldn't complain about anything being lost. So it was fun. Glad you came, and that you were at least entertained =).

P.S. You forgot to mention 1 thing: It was COLD!!!!!!!!! =P

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