Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Sunday, August 14, 2011
3 severed heads, 1 severed tongue, 1 rape, 10 onstage murders in cold blood, 5 offstage murders in cold blood, 2 human pies, 2 severed heads, 1 incidence of father-daughter murder, 1 incidence of father-son murder, 1 live burial and 1 instance of cannibalism. Let that suffice as a summary of Shakespeare’s bloodiest play. Titus was also his first tragedy. The stupefying amounts of blood and violence are what make Titus a popular gap filler for companies looking to perform a full season. It is a much easier task than, say, Hamlet or Macbeth, because those two take more time to prune each line to perfection. Whereas in Titus, fake blood and stunts can substitute for real substance. However, it is often difficult to focus on lines when an actor is being stabbed to death behind the speaker.
The biggest landmark of this play is Aaron the Moor, one of the most purely evil characters of all time. He is certainly Shakespeare's most evil character. While many argue in favor of Richard III or Edmund from Lear, they both have one defining trait which separates them. They both had somewhat understandable reasons for their villainies. Both were subject discrimination because of either birth or crippled limbs, both are humans who have become as they are because of treatment, not out of pure nature. The only possible contender is Othello's Iago. But I think he is better described as Shakespeare's most interesting villain, because he seems to have no motive leaves his motive open to the interpretation of the actor. He does definitively have some motive, it is just left open. Hence Aaron is left as the most evil.
Yet, neither of the striking components of this production were Aaron. One was the set. Titus is mainly about two things; honor and blood. The honor was brought out by the long marble stage. Three platforms with lights underneath them sat around it. Pure white, unstained, like honor. Four columns stood at the back. Each was veiled by vines and roses, curling and snaking towards the top. Atop these columns were four marble torsos and heads of men being tortured. Horrifyingly bathed in faint red light, like blood.
Lavinia was the second star. The queen was rash and uncharacteristically lost her cool often. Aaron was too bland and cliché. Yet Lavinia shown through them when in scenes with them. Even when Titus faltered, she didn't miss a beat. Though after her second scene she loses the ability to speak, she still commanded the stage with her presence. Her heavy, yet natural looking, eye makeup and pure white dress made her seem chillingly holy, and tear stained. Her death was a gentle twitch from Titus, peacefully snapping her neck. Her abandonment of all human customs and distinctions made her seem like a woman stripped of everything, living only for vengeance.
I would see Titus if you’re looking for an action-packed bloodbath. But don't bring the kids; it’s not that kind of action. For Shakespeare fanatics, it’s definitely worth seeing Lavinia. This production brings a lot of onstage blood to the table, which is rare for live shows. The scene that gives the best sense of the horror the play contains is the memorable opening scene. Titus's slain sons are rolled onstage on top of a huge block covered in a red cloth. After the burial ceremony, a Roman tears off the cloth, revealing that the block was a cage, containing terrified human prisoners. The perfect visual combination of blood and acting. If you’re going to see one of the big plays at Stratford, drop by for this one.
(pictures to come)
Sir John Falstaff. The very name is enough to send some folks into fits of laughter. The oafish, grumbling character pleased England's Queen so much that after seeing Henry IV parts I & II, she ordered Shakespeare to write another play solely for Falstaff. Hence this play. Though not generally thought to be anywhere near the stature of The Henrys, it does provide some gags and jokes. However to really make it worth watching it demands something more than what is written in the text. Regardless, whether it's effects, style, or anything else out of the ordinary.
This production chose costumes, more subtle than many other options, yet strikingly effective. All of the characters, and even the set, seemed as if they had just flowed out of the pages of a Sherlock Holmes novel. Each character was dressed in the garments which fit the stereotype for his/her social class. The lords were like Sherlock or Watson, the servants as commoners, the ladies as gentlewomen and the thieves as regular London drunkards. This made many of the lines which are usually dull funny not because of what was said but because of who said it. To hear such proper figures spewing such nonsense was very original.
The actor who most brought this out was Master Ford. His lordly countenance was transformed into a wronged nobleman who could well have just been cheated by commoners with half his stature. He tugged at his neatly combed hair and began to shrink his practiced, formal posture down to that of a hunchback. This physical change accented the visual focus of the performance quite brilliantly. Meanwhile Anne Page was the model of a chaste, young English maiden. Her sweet, accepting tone sounded like a canary’s song. This countenance was maintained even when talking to utter fools such as her suitors. She ignored their idiotic attempts to seem manly, yet seemingly acknowledged them. This made her seem the ultimate polite daughter, disguising her ulterior, individual motives.
Finally, of course, Falstaff. His jolly guffaw echoed throughout the hall like the roar of a triumphant lion across an African plane. His childish whining pierced the ear like a needle through cloth. His air of arrogance, coupled with his tight courtiers attire could have had him looking like a true knight. That is, if his mountainous stomach had not pushed his buttons to the point where it appeared a wonder they did not snap right off. His loose fitting hat clung comically to his dwarfish, pudgy face. His beard hung from his chin in an untamed mess. When he spoke, his timing was so impeccable that it seemed as if he were in a movie. Each joke had such a precisely crafted pause or action before the punch line that he often got laughs before finishing his thought. He seemed a cartoon in the world of the real. He is an unruly outlier in a very controlled atmosphere.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
(pictures to follow)
Monday, June 20, 2011
King Lear is a play about everything, and nothing. The heart-breaking story is filled from curtain up to curtain down with hints of hatred, misunderstanding, unfairness loyalty, love, death, pain, age, sanity, evil and rage. But the play is really about nothingness, or the path to it. Life is really just a race towards death, the ultimate equalizer. When Lear is king he has everything. But through the play he is slowly brought down to the basest level, his throne being usurped by a bastard and a fool teaching him lessons. This is brought on him because he attempted to defy nature. By dividing his kingdom, the undying union, he alters the ways of nature. This fault costs him his daughter, his mind, his kingdom and finally his life, though his adversaries are defeated. The true tragedy is that he loses his life after everything else has been taken.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Edward III, April 7, 2011, The New American Shakespeare Tavern, Atlanta, GA. Directed by Andrew Houchins.
Two Noble Kinsmen, March 8 2011, The New American Shakespeare Tavern, Atlanta GA. Directed by Troy Willis
Monday, April 25, 2011
Richard III, Propeller Theater, Boston MA, Directed by Edward Hall.
An elaborate murder
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Antony and Cleopatra, March 19, 2011, Take Wings And Soar Productions, Poet's Den Theater, Harlem, New York
(photos to follow)
Julio and Violata
Henriquez, his father and Julio
The opening scene
Leonata and a messeger
Luciana and Adriana
Luciana using one of her (his) weapons
Handout given out as a joke before the show
Thursday, March 17, 2011
In this performance he played Shylock. Shylock is a character for whom a very particular and unusual chain of events have to pass for him to be brought to his demise. Therefore he must retain the right amount of dignity, honor, charity, and even wisdom throughout each catastrophe until he finally snaps at the end of the play. It is easy to overplay the part and make Shylock truly look like a villain from the start, which defeats the purpose of so tragic an outcome. Mr. Abraham's talents were suited to this task. He had to think out each action, and display no outward greed or sinfulness, while inside he was pinning his hopes on things that were soon lost, until he had no hope left to pin.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Much Ado About Nothing, Princeton University Campus, 3/3/11, Class of 1970 Theater in Whitman College.
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny, nonny, nonny.”
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Sunday, February 6, 2011
One of the things that makes Pericles a very tough play to do is its fairytale-like, cliché plot. It can be extremely boring if it is not done with some added twists to liven it up. To conquer this obstacle, Ron Himes, the director, decided the play should be set in the Caribbean. It was a brilliant idea, morphing the story but still retaining it’s morals, as Pericles bounced around coastal cities during his adventures. The different types of people he encountered seemed to have no limit. He restored health to Haiti and was wrecked on the shores of Cuba. Each city was filled with different accents. It mystified the atmosphere in a way that even the bard himself could not have imagined.
Kush and McClain
To tackle the difficulties this rendition of play presents, the actors did not use conventional technique. Because they had to play specialized and adapted parts, standard technique, such as clear projection and facing the audience, would’ve made their roles much tougher. They spit on some of their lines, and did not vary the different heights of actors to create levels. Many scenes in Pericles are filled with jumbled confusion or chaos. Therefore, an organized style of directing would not have worked as well as what, on first glance, seemed to be a jumbled mass of bodies.
Each of the players added to the atmosphere Mr. Himes was creating in their own way, each becoming a special piece of the puzzle. Pericles (Ka'ramuu Kush) was very strong-jawed in his take on the wronged prince. Throughout the entire play he seemed conflicted and concerned, mistrusting his surroundings, which, though an unusual take on Pericles, worked well for this performance. In the very first scene someone tried to trap him. Even when in his own court he was shifty. He looked as if he’d been stripped of his ability to trust, and had no more left to share with the world. His haggard appearance after losing his daughter and wife was grizzly, but still a little regal. He still retained a little bit of arch in his spine, as a man who once was great would do when begging for a living. When he begged mere fishermen for food and shelter, his tone vibrated softly, but distinctly. He stood with only a torn pair of pants, but yet filled the room with an air of nobility. Helicanus (Chauncey Thomas), his faithful servant, was precise to the last detail, but still natural and relaxed. He beautifully crafted each line to his purpose. His skillful exactness made his words glide. Marina (Sharisa Whatley) was chaste as could be. She always wore white and when evils were enacted in front of her, she stared in confusion. She couldn’t even comprehend that people would do such things. Her lord, the mayor of New Orleans, was hilarious. He had a different accent for each of his characters including a fisherman and a lord. Also, the wise woman, or doctor, was one of the best character actresses I have seen in any play. She played both the doctor and the goddess Diana. When she was the doctor, she held Thaisa (Patrice McClain), the stricken queen, with a nimble sweetness almost out of a movie. She brushed everyone back and gently awoke the lady. The beauty of her actions out-spoke the beauty of her words.
McClains coffin and her saviors