Tag Archives: play

The Tempest (2013 Production/DVD)

Shakespeare’s Globe: Globe on Screen

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Enter the Globe Theatre and mingle with the members of the audience waiting in hushed anticipation. A ship is wrecked on a deserted island . . . no, not deserted after all. For this is the home of Prospero, wrongfully dispossessed Duke of Milan, his lovely daughter Miranda, the odious Caliban, and a number of spirits under Prospero’s magical control. Indeed, the storm itself that wrecked the ship was likewise under his control, and Prospero begins–with the help of the spirit Ariel–to weave events to his own liking.

Okay, so I’m one of those people who actually like Shakespeare’s work, and The Tempest is one of my favorites. So getting to see it produced in the Globe was really neat, even if it was just on DVD, and the filming was done really well to give a good feel for the place itself as well as for the performance. And yes, if I’m being completely honest, I originally picked this up because Colin Morgan plays Ariel, and I love his work so much that I’m trying to watch everything I can find that he’s in. And also yes, his performance is brilliant, very different from anything else I’ve seen him do, but perfect for the character. The casting and acting across the board was excellent, bringing a depth, humor, and interest to this play of an extent that I haven’t seen in stage productions of it previously. There were some quite interesting choices for costuming, makeup, and choreography that worked quite well (although fair warning that some of these serve to make this particular production mostly appropriate for adult audiences only). I was impressed at how much they did with so little in the way of scenery and stage space as well, making use of simple staging and imagination quite effectively. I also really loved the original musical compositions that were included. Recommended for those who enjoy The Tempest or Shakespeare’s work in general; if you don’t like them, you probably won’t enjoy this production, but if you do, it’s brilliant. (By the end of the performance, I found myself with all the adrenaline high of having attended a good play in person, just with the privacy to fangirl aloud without bothering people.)

Written by William Shakespeare/Directed by Jeremy Herrin/Music by Stephen Warbeck/Starring Roger Allam, Jason Baughan, Jessie Buckley, Sam Cox, Pip Donaghy, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Trevor Fox, James Garnon, Joshua James, William Mannering, Colin Morgan, Matthew Raymond, Sarah Sweeney, & Amanda Wilkin

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The Importance of Being Earnest

Author: Oscar Wildethe importance of being earnest

My rating: 5 of 5

As an excuse to leave the dullness and responsibility of country life, Jack Worthing has invented a troublesome brother named Ernest who lives in the city–naturally when his “brother” is in trouble, he has to go to town to take care of him. While in the city, he leaves his true identity behind, going instead by the name of Ernest himself. And it is by this name that he becomes betrothed to the lovely Gwendolyn; imagine his horror when he finds that she has sworn to only ever love someone named Ernest! Later when Jack has returned to his country house and his ward, the young Cecily, he finds that his friend Algernon is onto him and has the tables on him quite dramatically by coming to visit–as Jack’s wayward brother Ernest. Worse still, Algernon and Cecily proclaim their love for each other, or rather Cecily proclaims her love for someone named “Ernest” just as Gwendolyn did. As Gwendolyn arrives at Jack’s country house, the four are in a right proper stew of lies and confusions–but perhaps the most surprising thing is how much truth has been unwittingly told as lies.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of college literature classes (because I’d rather read stories than butcher them), but I’m ever grateful to my school for introducing me to this jewel of a Victorian play. It’s this satirical, hilariously funny representation of the excesses and the absurdities of the upper classes of Victorian England, and it’s a wonderful read. (Actually, it might be even better seen on stage, but it’s fantastic to read as well.) The wordplay in the drama is brilliantly executed–the sort of stuff that will be quoted probably hundreds of years from now. (River Song even quotes it in the most recent Doctor Who Christmas special!) Some of the ideas presented are quite cutting, but they’re also absurdly funny, perhaps even more so because of how awful they are at times. It’s a lot like Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors in the crazy confusion that the plot becomes. And the surprise ending is ironically perfect–just what the characters deserve. I think even if you’re not much into historical plays, The Importance of Being Earnest might be worth at least trying; it’s a lot of fun.

Note: This play is old enough to be public domain and can be found for free on Google Books and on Project Gutenberg.

 

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Blue

Presented by The Lenoir-Rhyne University Playmakers & The Little ReadBlue

Based on the novel by Joyce Moyer Hostetter

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WWII is raging, and Ann Fay Honeycutt’s father is going off to fight. Before he goes, he leaves her a pair of blue overalls (the same color he claims the wisteria is, despite her protestations that it’s purple!). He tells Ann Fay that while he’s gone, she’s going to have to be the man of the house and look after her mother, two little sisters, and little Bobby the baby. And of course, Ann Fay assures him that she’s up for the task–and pushes herself to fulfill her commitment, accepting no help from anyone, not even her neighbor Junior Bledsoe (who is pretty obviously sweet on her). Little did her father know when he left her in charge that folks in their small North Carolinian town were going to be facing a war of sorts of their own: an outbreak of polio that wrecked havoc on the community and even on the Honeycutt family itself. Brave and strong as she is, Ann Fay’s going to have a challenge for sure keeping her family safe and together in the face of this disease.

I had the immense pleasure of seeing this stage adaptation of Joyce Moyer Hostetter’s book Blue a few weeks ago at a local college. (Yes, I know, I’m very belated in this review. Sorry.) It was a lot of fun. They did a good job of adapting the story for a small stage–the total cast was only 8 individuals, with several playing multiple parts. I particularly enjoyed their use of live stage music, old-timey local radio, walking “car rides”, and a dream fight with a wisteria plant–all of which added a lot of character to the show and also provided nearly Shakespearean-comedy worthy humor, which was nice in a story that is at times extremely sad. The balance was good. I also really enjoyed that they chose to use a children’s book for their basis . . . usually at colleges, the plays are all overly stuffy and serious, which is fine. But it’s nice to have a more innocent and sweet story once in a while. Especially when it’s full of local history and tells a sweet, moving story. And has a strong female lead. What more can you ask for? I enjoyed the play greatly, and seeing it has made me interested in reading the original novel Blue as well.

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Death of a Salesman

Author: Arthur Miller

Willy has spent his whole adult life as a salesman, telling himself he’s on the road to wealth and stability. He’s told his boys they’re on the way to greatness as well. His self-sacrificing wife Linda has always supported him in his beliefs. . . . But the truth is that he’s never owned up to his own failings, never admitted he might not be as good as he wants to be. He’s even gotten his family convinced that they’re all much more successful than they really are. But when poverty comes knocking, Willy must make some adult decisions–something he’s never really done his entire life. His son Biff is starting to own up to who he really is, who his father really is. Is Willy capable of making the same hard decision?

I’m well aware that Death of a Salesman is considered a classic play; however, it was never taught in the literature classes I took in high school and college, so I’m coming at it strictly based on what I see from reading it. In that light, I would say that this is an excellent story, although rather depressing. It was written in the late 1940’s, and delivers a certain flavor because of that. I think even more so, though, it has a slightly childish feel simply because the characters are so immature. It’s like they never grew up. Probably the most rewarding part of reading this is seeing Biff choosing to acknowledge himself–and at that point, you’re feeling proud of a klepto loser! I guess what I’m trying to say is that, while the characters are unappealing, they are portrayed well. Linda is an interesting character in that you can’t really tell to what extent she believes the lies versus recognizing the truth and willfully choosing the lies . . . nor can you easily tell why she would choose the life she has. Of note, it’s really odd to read a play this old with that much swearing in it; it was probably pretty shocking when it was first performed, but my strongest impression is not shock but a feeling that all the swearing just proves the characters’ immaturity. I’m not sure whether I’d recommend Death of a Salesman or not–it’s certainly a classic, and probably should be read just for that, but I still find it depressing.

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William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back

Author: Ian Doescher

Inspired by the works of William Shakespeare & George Lucas

Mayhap you’ve heard the tale of a time long ago and far away. A time when brave rebels allied themselves against an evil empire. When a beautiful princess fell in love with a (maybe) reformed smuggler. A time when great leaders trained young warriors in the hope that things may turn out differently this time. It was a time when the Force was strong both for good and evil, when a moment’s choice could alter the course of fate forever. Verily, it was a time not unlike our own. . . .

As a fan of both classic Shakespeare and of the Star Wars movies, I have loved what Doescher is doing in combining the two from his first volume, Verily, a New Hope. I think William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back is an excellent follow up, continuing in the same vein as episode four as well as including several details to add to the writing even more. There were several points I found specifically intriguing about this volume. I love the way Doescher adds in details and expressions of internal feeling that wouldn’t have fit in an action movie but are perfect in this context–they add a lot to the reader’s appreciation of the action. His use of monologuing to describe some of the action scenes (as opposed to simply including stage directions to be acted out) is also an interesting choice; it adds character to the flow of the script, I think. His choice to use haiku for Yoda’s speech was also fascinating–unexpected, for sure, but it works, breaking the reader out of his expectations of Yoda’s speech patterns and focusing on the character and wisdom he seeks to imbue upon his young pupil. Finally, let’s face it, hearing Leia and Han love-fight in Shakespearean English is something not to be missed! My general opinion is that William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back is something that will be greatly enjoyed by those who share my love for both Shakespeare and Star Wars–and completely lost on everyone else, but that’s okay, right?

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Twelve Angry Men

Author: Reginald Rose

Twelve men enter the jury room, having heard the evidence from a murder trial. It seems a foregone conclusion: obviously guilty. Yet one juror holds out and votes “not guilty,” not so much because he is convinced of the boy’s innocence as that it doesn’t seem right to condemn the boy without at least discussing the case first. Gradually, the juror drags the others unwillingly back through the evidence, not so much even trying to convince them as just to get them to look at the evidence clearly themselves. And surprisingly, through much persistence, he is able to do just that . . . resulting in an unexpected conclusion of “not guilty!”

I think Twelve Angry Men is a play that everyone should see or read at least once. First of all, it provides a clear look at what really makes the American judicial system, at its core, what it is–and I must say, this play makes things clearer to me than a textbook ever did. But I think even more than that, this story is a fascinating character study. The eighth juror (the holdout) is obviously a logical, nice guy–one who’s willing to stand up against the flow of popular opinion. It’s really intriguing to see, as the jurors’ discussion proceeds, how each of the members reacts. Particularly interesting is they way in which each person’s prior experiences, character, and mental patterns play in to what piece of evidence or argument convinces them to change their vote. The writing shows a great knowledge and observation of people’s character, of what makes different people tick. Seriously, if you haven’t already, you should read Twelve Angry Men; it’s a great play, plus it’s short enough to read in one sitting.

Note: Although this post particularly focuses on the play Twelve Angry Men in its script form, I would also highly recommend the 1957 movie version, which is very similar and is performed with an excellent cast.

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William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope

Author: Ian Doescher

Based on the works of William Shakespeare & George Lucas

The tale has become something of a legend: how one small rebellion held out, fighting bravely against a domineering Empire. How the Jedi were made all but extinct, yet managed to fight back against the Sith against all odds. And how one young man, hungry for adventure, found himself caught up in something far beyond himself, meeting people, braving unspeakable dangers, and growing in unexpected ways. Yet forsooth, you’ve never heard the tale told in so metric and unlikely a manner before!

Combining two such iconic and seemingly dissimilar bodies of work as those of Shakespeare and Lucas is quite a daring feat–one destined to be either brilliant or atrocious. Doescher’s work in William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope is a piece of genius. It’s surprising how well the story actually fits in the style–rather I would say that the style gets out of the way and lets the story shine through, which is what all good storytelling should do. The inclusion of various Shakespearean allusions is both amusing and apt, and the use of soliloquies and asides (which obviously don’t occur in the original) provide a greater insight into the characters’ motives and emotions. I think that actually gave me a greater appreciation for a story I already love. My general conclusion is: if you like Shakespearean plays and the original Star Wars movies, you’ll likely enjoy William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope (unless you’re a purist, in which case, avoid it entirely).

Note: I want to see this performed live as an actual play now. It would be fantastic!

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