Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I've Got A Secret

I've Got A Secret

You're about to learn one of my deepest, darkest secrets. I've never shared it in this space before because I know what I'm about to say is considered heresy by most of my peers who enjoy theatre. But here goes...

I dread seeing most productions of William Shakespeare's plays. They invariably put me to sleep.

I realize that this admission is probably not one I should make lightly (and I don't), and I may actually live to regret ever admitting it quite so boldly.

However, as artful and daring as The Bard was in creating virtually every story line ever imaginable in 16th and 17th Century England, the fact of the matter is that my ears rarely adjust to the tedious nature of the time's spoken word (many of which were created by Shakespeare himself). It becomes torture.

Yes, Shakespeare's themes may be universal, but no one speaks that way anymore, and if delivered poorly, as is too often the case, it's too much of a slog for me. So much so that the only show I've ever walked out of was a production of Antony And Cleopatra. (Boring!)

OK, so I know this is sacrilege to most theatre lovers, but it's my truth.

It is against this startling admission that I learned Lincoln Center would be mounting a revival of Shakespeare's Cymbeline, which was last seen on Broadway nearly 84 years ago...for 15 performances.

If there's any reason for me to be somewhat hopeful, it's because of the casting that includes Jonathan Cake, Michael Cerveris, John Cullum, Martha Plimpton and Phylicia Rashad. It certainly doesn't hurt that Mark Lamos will be directing.

Performances at the Vivian Beaumont begin on November 1 with opening night slated for December 2. Maybe, just maybe, I'll find myself riveted. But I'm not counting on it.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for ticket information.

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At 16 August, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. I saw Hamlet a couple years ago, and I think I would have been pretty lost if I hadn't read a copy of the play beforehand that was translated into modern English!

At 16 August, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it's any consolation, Cymbeline has a scene where Jupiter descends from the heavens on a golden eagle, chews out the mortals for being so petty, and goes back up into the rafters. It happens almost at the end of the play, so maybe it will be worth sticking around for.

At 16 August, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther - Your comments fall in line with my thinking. If everything else can be adapted into modern language, why can't Shakespeare? I mean, many Shakespeare productions have been "set" in modern times, yet the script seems stuck in a time warp.

At 16 August, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Eric, I'd be afraid that Jupiter would single me out!

At 16 August, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw "All's Well that Ends Well" a few years ago in London with the RSC.......the show was amazing as I was not bored, couldn't believe that three hours had passed and understood all of it.
In the states I take a "pillow" because I seldom see good productions that keep my interest and that I can follow (I do yank the Bloom off the shelf and read that for an understanding).....
I hope I may get to see this production at LCT just because with this cast I believe they may get it right....

At 16 August, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Gene, the best version of any Shakespearean work I've seen ever was Mark Rylance in the Globe's globetrotting production of Twelfth Night, Or, As You Will when it toured the United States back in 2002.

The ensemble made the characters' dialogue come alive and seem very natural -- as opposed to the forced manner unfortunately employed by far too many actors.

To be fair, I also enjoyed the Guthrie's recent production of The Merchant Of Venice.

At 24 September, 2009, Blogger karigee said...

I'm finding this two years late! My apologies. While I can't agree to the idea that the language needs to be adapted to "modern English" (Egads! The language is what makes it Shakespeare!), you definitely need to tune your ear to a different pitch, and it's incumbent upon you to listen hard (sorry, I don't know how to whitewash that one, but there's effort involved). And the casting is certainly paramount, much like anything else you see performed live. The actors can suck the life out of "Macbeth" just as easily as they can out of "Gypsy," and vice versa.

I've sat through some total bores, too, but the finest Shakespeare production I've seen was "Pericles" at the Goodman, and that's a play loved by few. The casting and direction (by Mary Zimmerman) were astonishing, and it was a production that deserved to travel wide and far.

Second best was an outdoor production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" done by First Folio—a tiny company with a budget of approximately $15—in Oakbrook, IL. Stripped bare, to its essence, and truly inspired.

So I would say if you care enough to keep trying it, your odds of finding a production that touches you will improve, as will your ability to adapt to the language. If not, no harm done. If you truly don't like it, why torture yourself? There are so many other things out there to reward your attention.

At 24 September, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks Kari. While my ears continue to strain far more than I typically enjoy, I am pleased to note that since I wrote this particular post, I have been treated to not one but two immensely enjoyable Shakespeare productions: Cymbeline and Twelfth Night.

But along the way, I've also had to sit through many more difficult productions just to find these, yet these two were most definitely worth the effort.

To not make the effort for someone who truly wants to experience every aspect of live theatre would be a far far greater loss in my humble opinion.


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