Live Action

September 17, 2015 at 9:35 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Antony and Cleopatra, Live Performances, Shakespeare's Plays, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona) (, , , , , , , , )

I started this post two whole years ago, but was sidetracked. Here it is with a few updates!

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CSC-logo-300I love the local Shakespeare groups in the DC area. The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is especially fun and vibrant. During the summer, they perform family-friendly productions at the haunted ruins of a Southern Belle finishing school. In the fall, they used to take folks inside those ruins for movable productions in the dark (they did Dracula like that a couple years ago!). Now that they’ve settled into their beautiful Baltimore home, it looks like they plan to stay there for the fall show (though it’s still bloody: Titus Andronicus!).

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company performs during the summer at the haunted ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute (Photo by Teresa Castracane)

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company performs during the summer at the haunted ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute (Photo by Teresa Castracane)

Two summers ago, I took my kids to see The Taming of the Shrew at the haunted ruins. Light rain was barely noticed and the actors were just happy to complete a performance (so many thunder storms in Maryland that year… and the ruins are on top of a hill). The outdoor venue is really fun for families, with blankets and picnicking encouraged and no need for kids to sit perfectly still and at attention. There are a few hundred folding chairs available, as well as space to spread out. The stage area is built on several levels in front of the ruins and the actors use window openings and the sides of the ruins for entrances and exits. There’s a lot of activity. This production of the Shrew was pure fun. The comedy was slapstick and silly, with hilarious situations and clownish antics. Great fun for kids.

Back in 2013, CSC was also still playing in community spots. I saw The Two Gentlemen of Verona in “The Other Barn” which was a surprisingly pleasant and intimate community performance space located in a shopping center in Columbia, Maryland. It’s a hike for me to Columbia, but it was well worth it. CSC is a a community-minded organization and makes a great effort to be accessible to its audience.

The performance I attended was preceded by a talk with director Patrick Kilpatrick who spoke a bit about the setting he chose for this production… it takes place in 1991, a year Kilpatrick described as pivotal to American culture… the year “everything changed.” His inspiration (if that’s what you would call it) was a combination of the William Kennedy Smith rape case and the Menendez brothers’ trial. “Proteus and Valentine are the Menendez brothers. They are William Kennedy Smith. Two kids from wealthy and powerful families who think they can have whatever they want, because for their entire lives that has been a fact.” It was an interesting way to look at the play and in fact worked really well, with the boys in their button down oxford shirts and smoking seegars.

And it was a great deal of fun watching the play at The Other Barn… the actors were within a couple feet of me. The Duke’s eight-year-old son was sitting near me on a bench watching his dad and hanging out with him between scenes… I loved the casual atmosphere. The CSC players also entertained us with some fun music before the show and during intermission. Love these performances.

Street musicians playing for me during a downpour in Staunton.

Street musicians playing for me during a downpour in Staunton.

This past summer I visited my favorite spot, Staunton, Virginia, once again. I stayed in a fantastic airbnb place and really enjoyed the town. I took in two performances at the American Shakespeare Center: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Antony and Cleopatra. I even won a door prize… a poster signed by the cast! The shows were excellent, as always. They continue through November along with The Winter’s Tale and Henry VI, Part I (called Shakespeare’s Joan of Arc).

Sarah Fallon as Cleopatra and James Keegan as Antony in ANTONY & CLEOPATRA. Photo by Lindsey Walters.

America Shakespeare Center presents Sarah Fallon as Cleopatra and James Keegan as Antony in ANTONY & CLEOPATRA. Photo by Lindsey Walters. See this video for the actress talking about her role.

I saw ASC do The Winter’s Tale a few years ago in McLean, Virginia. ASC is bringing their Dangerous Dreams Tour to the Alden Theatre in McLean again in 2016. They’ll perform Julius Caesar, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Life of King Henry V January 22-23. They have a package deal for all three shows at the Alden along with a “Brush up your Shakespeare” talk on January 21. Prices: $88 general public/$62 students and seniors/$50 McLean Community Center district residents… what a bargain, especially if you live in McLean! The DC-area Shakespeare Explorers Meetup group is participating in all the Alden events… maybe I’ll make it out to one!

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Carnival!

August 1, 2011 at 12:32 am (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Live Performances, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , )

I love to get out during the summer to see outdoor Shakespeare. I’ve been wishing and wanting for months to see the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s carnival-themed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company lets kids in for free, and I thought this might be the perfect play for my boys, who are 6 and 9 and not very good at sitting still. Many of the shows begin at 8 PM, which is too late for us, but I made it out tonight for their 6 PM show, the last of the season! I am so glad.

I meant to get there early for the pre-show carnival games and fun, but we got tied up in DC beltway traffic and only made it about 15 minutes before showtime. The kids still enjoyed some games and had a quick burger before the show began. There was face painting and a sprinkler set up for the kids (I am kind of immune to the heat here, but I think the temp was in the high 90s at the show’s start… it felt pleasant to me and all the seats were in the shade). We brought a blanket and could have sat right up front, but the boys wanted to sit on folding chairs. There are no bad seats.

Molly Moores as Titania & Jose Guzman as Oberon from A Midsummer Night's Dream, photo by Teresa Castracane

I saw Chesapeake Shakespeare do Much Ado About Nothing last year, and I described their incredible outdoor performing space at the ruins of an antebellum finishing school in Ellicott City, Maryland. For A Midsummer Night’s Dream, they transform the ruins into a circus, with a tightrope, some signs, and lights… the carnival theme is not taken too far.

The show begins with some magic tricks, but again it’s not taken too far. Oberon is dressed as the circus master and Titania is his assistant, but other than that, the carnival theme fades and we’re in familiar forest and fairyland.

Jamie Jager as Puck & Stacy Downs as Peaseblossom from A Midsummer Night's Dream, photo by Teresa Castracane

I love this play, and there were no weak parts in this production. The Athenians were hilarious, and I loved watching them running all around, progressively losing their clothes and getting more worn out, leaves in their hair, etc. Funny. It was hilarious watching their fighting and insults and fun to watch Puck and Oberon sitting up in the windows of the ruins “enjoying the sport.”

Puck is great fun in this production — a big guy with cool shades. He’s very funny.

I loved Bottom in this production, as well. My boys have seen bits and pieces of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on video, and the part they know best is where Puck turns Bottom into the ass-head that the love-juiced Titania falls for. This had my 6 year old bending over laughing.

They also loved the Mechanicals — especially Flute playing Thisby. Both of my boys were laughing like crazy whenever Flute was out. They got a big kick out of the chink in the wall (fingers held out), too. The little one kept saying, “This is Ridiculous!” And indeed, it was. This version of Pyramus and Thisby was thoroughly ridiculous… as it should be!

I’m so very glad that I got out to see this production. My 9 year old pronounced this “the best day ever!” on our way home (we also had a hike in the morning and went fishing and butterfly hunting, so there was a lot for a little boy to love today). But I was glad that their first experience watching a full-length live production of Shakespeare was such a success. Bottoms up!

David R Tabish as Bottom, Robby Rose as Snout from A Midsummer Night's Dream, photo by Teresa Castracane

If you live in the DC area, think about joining the Shakespeare Explorers Meetup Group. They get out to a lot more shows than I do. For example, they’re going to see Taffety Punk stage King John for free at the Folger Theatre tomorrow!

© All Content, Copyright 2011 by Blog Author, Or What You Will. All Rights Reserved.

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Silent Shakespeare

December 1, 2010 at 1:24 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Asides, Film Adaptations, The Merchant of Venice) (, , )

I love his words. But I also love the stories, and so I can thoroughly enjoy a ballet based on Shakespeare.  I saw Netflix offered The Milestone Collection: Silent Shakespeare and I thought I’d give it a try.

It was interesting. It includes brief (most are one reel — about 10 minutes) renditions of seven plays: King John (Britain, 1899), The Tempest (Britain, 1908), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (USA, 1909), King Lear (Italy, 1910), Twelfth Night (USA, 1910), The Merchant of Venice (Italy, 1910), Richard III (Britain, 1911).

I enjoyed the pace. I found the silent movies, with their lovely music, very relaxing to watch. Yet because the plots are so abbreviated, the stories move right along. Some of the films are incomplete or jump around, but they’re interesting to watch. I like the stylized acting and the facial expressions. It’s fun to watch. Such a different era.

The costumes are nice. I liked seeing actual Athenians dressed in Greek attire in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I enjoyed seeing the Merchant of Venice filmed on location in Venice! Beautiful! Two of the films, King Lear and the Merchant of Venice are tinted with beautiful colors. I don’t know what the process was they used, but the skin remains black and white–only the clothing and some of the backgrounds are vivid. It’s an interesting contrast!

Okay, let’s face it… this is an oddity. I could not always follow the story lines and I admit to fast-forwarding through some of it, but still, I thought it was pretty cool to see these early films!

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Dead Poets

July 9, 2010 at 11:48 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , )

Oh my goodness. Can this movie really be old enough to drink? Where does the time go? I guess it’s been 21 years since I saw Peter Weir’s 1989 film Dead Poets Society, because I watched it in a theater. Geez.

Anyway, I got to thinking about it after seeing Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing where Robert Sean Leonard plays the young lover Claudio. In DPS, Leonard plays the pivotal role of Neil Perry, the wannabe high school thespian who lands the part of Puck in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

This film is so wonderful. It won an Oscar for Best Writing and was nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Actor. I love Robin Williams in this film. He is just perfect for the role — the inspiring teacher, John Keating. Doesn’t everyone wish they’d had a teacher like that? Funny, exciting, full of life, full of wisdom, full of dreams. He brings those dreams to life for his students. Poetry is the language he wants them to speak.

And speak they do! He fires them up and gets them interested in life and love and living. You see the changes happen in the boys as they start to realize their interests, their individuality, and their potentials.

His students find an old yearbook where one of Keating’s activities is listed as the Dead Poets Society and they ask him to explain. I love his description:

The Dead Poets was dedicated to “sucking the marrow out of life.” That’s a phrase from Thoreau we would invoke at the beginning of every meeting. You see, we would gather at the old Indian cave and take turns reading from Thoreau, Whitman, Shelly — the biggies — even some of our own verse. And, in the enchantment of the moment, we’d let poetry work its magic.

Of course Shakespeare is one of the dead poets venerated in this film. Neil takes the leap he knows his overbearing father won’t approve of and lands the role of Puck in A Midsummer Nights Dream. He is so excited! He’s doing something he really wants to do!

Neil’s performance is poignant. He sees his father in the audience and speaks Puck’s last lines directly to his dad. He’s begging his father to understand and to forgive him:

If we shadows have offended, 
Think but this, and all is mended, 
That you have but slumber’d here 
While these visions did appear. 
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

Keating congratulates him as he leaves the theater, “Neil. Neil. You have the gift. What a performance. You left even me speechless. You have to stay with…” and then he’s cut off by Neil’s father, who even after seeing his son perform is seething with anger over his disobedience.

Ah, life. I love this film. And I love the way it ends… the final scene is really touching. O Captain! My Captain!

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Fairy Funny

July 4, 2010 at 12:39 am (A Midsummer Night's Dream, My College Papers, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , )

A couple weeks ago, my drive down into the mountains of Virginia got me thinking about college. I went to school a few hours deeper into those beautiful hills, at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Anyway, then I realized I forgot to post about my college papers. Yep, I wrote one on A Midsummer Night’s Dream back in November 1986. Yawn. Why did I keep these papers? Why would I ever want to read them again? It’s a mystery. Anyhow, this one is entitled: “The Fairies’ Contribution to the Humor in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Yawn.

How do professors psyche themselves into reading this stuff over and over, year after year? How? It’s a mystery. Yawn. This paper is bleeding with red ink, but the guy should have been an MD… his handwriting is so bad I can’t make out what most of his notes say. I see “develop” and “expand” in a couple places; not sure what good comments like that do on a paper that would never be further discussed or revised. Anyway.

Actually, I kind of enjoyed reading the paper because it made me think about the difference between what I’m doing with this blog and what I did in school. In school, I’m sure I just did the minimum required. This paper is only 4.5 pages long, which was probably the minimum requirement (I bet there was a required word count and since this was typed on a typewriter… I bet I actually counted the words).

Also, I wonder about the whole concept of undergrad theme papers. Is it a useful way of teaching? Again, because I never went back and revisited the themes/rewrote the paper/had any useful conversation or input about it, I’m not sure what I got out of it. I guess just the exercise of coming up with something to put on paper is useful in itself. I guess.

On the other hand, I’m having a lot of fun with this blog and think I’m learning a lot. I can write about anything I want and not worry that every statement is backed up with “impressive” evidence that will get me a grade. And also, here I find I have more questions than answers. I’m just putting my thoughts out there and not always drawing conclusions. (I’d love to get more comments about my posts… that would be fun!)

Also, I like writing on the blog because it’s my party and I can do what I want. I can say things I’d never put in a school paper. I don’t have to mind my p’s and q’s so much… I can use slang and sentence frags when I feel more conversational and casual — sometimes it’s less cumbersome to get my meaning across without worrying about the presence and placement of all the parts of speech. I can neglect to ital titles, because I feel like it. I can do what I feel like because no one is grading me! This is more fun. I can spend as much time as I feel like on each play… no deadlines! And maybe (especially if you comment!) I get more out of it than I did from my college papers.

Alrighty. Let’s see. Is there anything insightful in this paper? I talk a bit about the popularity of nonhuman beings in folklore. How people enjoy fairy tales about sprites possessing both human foibles and magical powers. And how this combination of traits is especially amusing because it allows for more imaginative stories — not limited to the predictability of the human world.

For all their humanlike feelings, the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream have resources for dealing with them that set them firmly apart from mortals. This endears them further to the audience, because the fairies deal with problems we can relate to, but they deal in ways that humans can only fantasize about. Yet for all their powers, they mess things up pretty well. There’s a lot of humor in that.

I compare and contrast the whimsical magic of the fairyworld to the slapstick shenanigans of the mechanicals. I also contrast the mystical, mischievous fairyworld here to the scary underworld of evil spirits, witches and scary magic in folklore. We have love juice here, not death spells. We have the mischievous, but not malicious, Puck.

I go into some detail about Puck — how this character was well-known to Shakespeare’s audience. Puck was the Elizabethan euphemism for today’s gremlins — the causers of all those little, inexplicable things that occur when no one is looking. Shakespeare recounts Puck’s exploits so that the audience is reminded of who he is. He’s a very funny character to include in the play because of his universality: everyone can relate to him because everyone has had a brush with Puck (I used the word “universalism” here, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t talking about religion!).

I talk a bit about the poetic language of the fairies. How their pretty, ethereal language creates their mystique. And I compare it to the heavy-handedness of the mechanicals’ language. Let’s see, I go into the humor of Oberon’s prank, and the farce of Titania’s doting on Bottom. And then I talk about the humor stemming from dramatic irony… because the audience sees the fairies, but the Athenians don’t. We know all the silliness among the lovers stems from the love juice, but they are unconscious of the cause.

I wind it up by giving the fairies credit for putting things to right, one hilarious step at a time, for leaving everyone feeling like it was all a strange dream, and for making this one of Shakespeare’s most entertaining plays. B+

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Finally, Bliss

May 15, 2010 at 12:23 am (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , )

I finally watched the 1990 New York City Opera performance of A Little Night Music (from Live at Lincoln Center). I promised myself this treat after watching the dismal 1978 movie with Elizabeth Taylor. It’s so much better.

The cast is great; I enjoyed all the acting and singing. Frederick (George Lee Andrews) and Desiree (Sally Ann Howes, who I will always think of as Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) have great chemistry and are charming and witty together. I really enjoy the give and take between them. 

Beverly Lambert plays Frederick’s virginal wife Anne as a complete airbrain, which fits the part. Desiree’s lover/dragoon Carl-Magnus Malcolm (played by Michael Maguire) really seems to have a brain the size of a pea, as Desiree describes him to Frederick. I also enjoy Petra, the lusty maid (played by Susan Terry) and Desiree’s worldly and insightful mother, Madame Arnfeldt, played by Regina Resnik.

Ironically, a weak spot for me in this production is the “Send in the Clowns” scene. During the intermission, there is an interview with Stephen Sondheim explaining that song. He did not originally include it in the score. When the production was in rehearsal (for the 1973 original Broadway show), director Hal Prince called Sondheim and asked him to write a song for Desiree. Sondheim did not want to because he felt that particular scene belonged to Frederick. Prince explained his reasoning, talked it over with Sondheim, and Sondheim wrote the song in two days. Sondheim explains:

“It was never meant to be a soaring ballad. It’s a song of regret. It’s a song of a lady who is too upset and too angry to speak (meaning to sing) for a very long time. She is furious, but she doesn’t want to make a scene in front of Frederick because she recognizes that his obsession with his 18-year-old wife is unbreakable. So she gives up. So it’s a song of regret and anger.”

Then the video shows Sally Ann Howes working on phrasing with musical director Paul Gemignani. You get the feeling that she really understands the purpose of the lyrics and how to make it work.

So, when the scene between Frederick and Desiree comes up in the second act, I have some expectations. Howes lets me down. She sings it with a beautiful voice. But it’s too much about the beauty of her voice and not enough about the emotion of the scene. I want pain and anguish, sadness and anger there. I want her to be about to cry and barely able to spit out the words. That sounds awful, but that’s what the song needs. The lyric “Isn’t it bliss?” is filled with bitter irony. I think that Judi Dench does it right… the catch in her voice, the sadness.

Anyway, that’s the only thing that didn’t work for me in this production. This is a really enjoyable version of A Little Night Music; the show works well on the stage and it’s much better than the Elizabeth Taylor movie version. Unfortunately, the 1990 Lincoln Center production is not on Netflix. There are DVDs available, or you can watch it in pieces on YouTube.

As I explained in my earlier posts, this show is not directly Shakespearean. It is a musical version of Ingmar Bergman’s wonderful film Smiles of a Summer Night. Bergman was inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and there are shared themes. Smiles of a Summer Night also inspired Woody Allen’s A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy.

If you want my viewing suggestions, watch Bergman’s film first, then the 1990 musical, think about skipping Woody Allen, and don’t even consider the Elizabeth Taylor movie.

I think this will be my final post related to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Unless someone has another movie suggestion or comment from the text, I’m about ready to move on to Much Ado About Nothing. Read it with me!

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Taking Two for the Team

May 11, 2010 at 7:57 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , )

I guess this proves I will do almost anything for this blog. I watched both, yes BOTH, High School Musical and High School Musical 2. I read that the first one is based on Romeo and Juliet and the second one is inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Blech. I mean, I guess there is Shakespeare drowning somewhere deep in all the treacle, but it’s really hard for me to identify.

Let’s start with the first movie. It’s boy (Troy, played by Zac Efron) meets girl (Gabriella, played by Vanessa Hudgens). They meet at New Years at a ski resort. They make beautiful (karaoke) music together. Girl disappears. Girl reappears at boy’s high school the following week.

Girl is smart; boy is athlete. She has smart friends on the school’s quiz show team; he has athletic friends on the basketball team. I think this serves as the Capulet/Montague structure. How can a smart girl be friends with an athletic boy? The mere thought threatens the foundation of the cosmos. So, I guess that makes them star-crossed.

Then they try out for a school musical together. I guess boy sings to girl on her balcony (I might have slept through that, but I saw a reference to it somewhere). And ummm, yep, I think that’s all I can say regarding Shakespearean parallels there.

And then on to HSM2. It’s summer vacation and everyone is working at the country club. Everyone plays Bottom. Right? I think that’s the connection to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Alack, alack, alack.

If I am forced to find parallels here, I think it must be that Sharpay (played by Ashley Tisdale) is pining for Troy, making her Helena and him Demetrius. Except that Troy actually is dating Gabriella, so that makes him Lysander if she is Hermia. So, we’ll call him Demander.

And then a little money/college scholarships are waved in front of Troy/Demander’s nose, and that serves as the love juice and he is temporarily sucked into Sharpay’s vortex. But then he wanders around the woods of his own mind, duels with himself, and the real Troy/Lysander comes back to sing beautiful music with Gabriella. Yay!

Really, I am so sorry for anyone who has children who watch this over and over again. It is mind numbing and I think you must be earning extra karma points wherever those things are tracked. 

HSM is (mercifully) not popular in my own home. When I asked my second grader if he wanted to watch it, he looked stricken and said “No! Why?!” And that was the end of that. Now, excuse me while my head explodes.

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A Glowing Review

May 10, 2010 at 12:45 am (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , , , )

It’s been many years since I’ve seen a ballet performed live. They can be poorly staged, or shaky and out-of-sync dancers can distract.

Or a ballet can be perfectly beautiful, glowing, entrancing, and magical—with sumptuous costumes, lavish sets, beautiful music, gorgeous dancing. That kind of experience reminds me that humans can create great beauty.

That’s what I think while watching the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s performance of Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, filmed in 1999 at London’s Sadler Wells Theater. Wow. Just wow.

The story starts in the forest, bypassing the opening scene with Theseus, Hippolyta and Egeus. From there, it follows Shakespeare’s narrative pretty closely.

I enjoy watching the interplay between the four lovers. It is well done—the loving dance between Lysander (Ross Yearsley) and Hermia (Julie Tobiason) and then the cold Demetrius (Jeffrey Stanton) pushing away the distraught Helena (Lisa Apple). The love-juice-inspired confusion, Lysander lusting after Helena and spurning Hermia, the dueling and confusion in the foggy forest (beautiful sets!).

I enjoy the fairies, as well. Oberon (Paul Gibson) is regal and in control. Puck (Seth Belliston) is an amazing mime. Titania (Patricia Barker) is absolutely lovely. The set for her bower is gorgeous and her fairy entourage is magical.

I love it all. It is hilarious to see this nymph, this ethereal beauty, this Queen of the Fairies, dancing with the ass-headed Bottom.

The second act has little to do with Shakespeare (no mechanicals, no Pyramus and Thisby). There is the courtly wedding (including the ubiquitous Mendelssohn wedding march) and then an extended series of beautiful dances. This is grand entertainment: gorgeous dancing, beautiful sets, fantastic costumes (I love that Hippolyta actually looks like an Amazon queen!). Watching this makes me really long to see a beautiful ballet presented live.

Lovely!

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A Rant and a Rave

May 8, 2010 at 7:32 am (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , )

First the rant. Rant is strong language; this just was not my thing at all. Netflix has xxxHOLiC the Movie: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it got a lot of stars, so I gave it a try. I admit to sleeping through a good part of it (which was on fast play anyway). This movie has absolutely nothing to do with Shakespeare. I didn’t see any references at all. It’s a Japanese cartoon about a sorceress who solves mysteries with some teenagers helping her. The user reviews in IMDB pretty much say it all. It was not of interest to me. (Note that there is nothing adult about the content of this cartoon, even though the title has the x’s. The sorceress wears a low-cut dress, but that’s about it. I have no idea what the x’s signify. If my kids had been awake, they probably would have liked this.)

Now the rave, which was a surprise to me! I really kind of enjoyed A Midsummer Night’s Rave. It’s only about 80 minutes long, so I just watched it again on fast play. There is no accounting for my taste in movies, but I thought this was pretty watchable. I guess I like quirky indie movies, and this fits the bill.

It’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in a rave party. It makes me laugh just typing that sentence. It is a nutty idea, and yet it’s really funny, it’s pretty darn Shakespearean, and I found it enjoyable all the way around.

It doesn’t start well (from my perspective). Really, I’d suggest skipping the first 10-15 minutes of the movie. There is a non-Shakespearean subplot involving a drug dealer looking for his money. In the director’s comments, Gil Cates, Jr. says this subplot was added to appeal to the “ravers” who are the target audience of the film; he wanted to make it more edgy for them. So there’s a gun waved around, there’s a little punching, there’s a very brief fast-speed sex scene. To me, the film starts with the wrong tone.

And then the rest of the movie settles into enjoyable Shakespeare-inspired stuff. There are the four lovers (Xander, Mia, Elena, and Damon). Their love quadrangle doesn’t operate exactly like Shakespeare’s, but the idea is similar. 

I thought Lauren German did a good job with the Elena/Helena role. Carrie Fisher makes a pretty funny cameo appearance as Mia/Hermia’s high society mother (playing an Egeus-like part of urging Mia to date Damon/Demetrius). It looks like Andrew Keegan, who plays Xander/Lysander, has made a mini-career out of these modern Shakespeare takeoffs—he was also in 10 Things I Hate About You and O.

Puck (Glen Badyna) and O.B. John/Oberon (Jason Carter) are great characters in this movie. O.B. John speaks in mysterious poetry (some of it Shakespearean) and Puck is the sparkly fairy pill dispenser at the rave and in charge of the love pills. 

My favorite character is Xander’s cousin Nick/Bottom (Chad Lindberg), the ass-headed ass. He plays in a donkey costume at kids’ birthday parties, but he loses that job. During the rave, he hallucinates that he has the asshead on and he’s convinced that he’s really an ass. It’s really pretty funny. I guess you had to be there. What’s even funnier… (SPOILER ALERT)  he leaves the party with the gorgeous Britt/Titania (Nichole Hiltz)!

The sylvan setting for the rave is pretty cool. There are a lot of quirks. There is a toilet paper fairy and other fairies hanging around the porta potty. There’s a bubble-chair filled chill room for people who want to connect in quiet. It’s all very cute and playful and good-humored.

Okay, it’s not for little kids. The whole thing takes place in a rave with casual pill popping and everyone flying pretty high.  There’s a gay twist to the plot. I didn’t find any of it offensive, but others might.

To be honest, both of these films were throw-aways for me; I wasn’t expecting much out of either of them, so I was pleasantly surprised with Rave.

© All Content, Copyright 2010 by Blog Author, Or What You Will. All Rights Reserved.

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Bits and Pieces

May 6, 2010 at 10:11 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Analysis and Discussion, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , )

I am winding down on my posts about A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about.

Pyramus and Thisby : Romeo and Juliet
Pyramus and Thisby, the play-within-the-play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is pure farce the way it’s presented by the “rude mechanicals.” But the story itself is of two star-crossed lovers whose families keep them apart and who end up tragically committing suicide at a tomb.

Sound familiar? Romeo and Juliet was written by Shakespeare around the same time, so I’m sure there are parallels if we look for them. It seems like Shakespeare had some fun making fun of R&J by presenting a very similar story in P&T in such a silly way—bringing comedy to the tragedy.

Another similarity that strikes me is the sexual puns. They are a constant in R&J, but they are absent (or at least pass right by me) in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, except for in P&T. The note in my edition puts it this way: “… a network of obscene jokes running through the mechanicals’ play.” There are puns on words like “chink” and “hole” and “stones” in the wall, etc.

So Bottom is an obscene punner like our old friend from R&J, Mercutio. Maybe there are other comparisons to make between the two characters? One thing I notice is their use of words. Mercutio has a razor-sharp wit and his words and puns are excessively pointed. Bottom is an extreme contrast to Mercutio: he’s a silly ass and his language is full of malapropisms and verbal mistakes. 

More on P&T
The wedding party makes many witty and snobby comments while watching P&T, but I wonder if they appreciate the sexual jokes. I wonder if Peter Quince wrote them into the script on purpose, as appropriate for a pre-wedding night entertainment!

The other thing I wonder about P&T is how and why it seems to change so much over time. When the mechanicals originally meet and Quince gives out roles, he includes both parents of Thisby and casts himself as Pyramus’s father. Later, when they meet in the woods to rehearse, they discuss someone needing to play Wall and Moonlight, so I guess Quince rewrites the play to get rid of all the parents, give lines to Wall and Moonlight and take himself out of the play except for reading the prologue. And the lines Pyramus and Thisby rehearse when Bottom is turned into an ass by Puck are not present in the final version of P&T performed for the wedding party. There is probably no need to analyze any of this, but it occurred to me that the changes might mean something. Or maybe not.

Questions
I have a few random questions lingering in my mind as I wrap things up.

Why does Oberon want the Indian boy? It seems like his anger with Titania amounts to a temper tantrum for not getting his way. Titania doesn’t obey; Titania must pay.

Why does Egeus want Demetrius to marry Hermia? Since his daughter loves another man (Lysander) and Lysander claims to be of as high rank or better than Demetrius, it seems odd that Egeus is more willing to have Hermia die than marry a man she loves. Hermia does not obey; Hermia must pay (with her life).

I don’t mean to overplay the misogyny card. My edition’s notes point out that the standard (misogynist) view of women during the Elizabethan period stereotyped them as the ones likely to stray romantically. So Hermia and Helena’s constancy throughout the play (neither for a minute doubting her own love for her wayward man) earns the audience’s sympathy, while Lysander and Demetrius appear ridiculous with their sudden shifts in affection.

Why does Demetrius want to marry Hermia? What caused him to lose love for Helena? There are no answers given in the play. The questions linger in my mind. Love, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is all rather ephemeral and senseless. Maybe that is the point! Lord, what fools these mortals be, as Puck says.

Favorite Quotes
There are some great lines and beautiful imagery in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Here are a couple of lines that I love.

I love when Oberon and Titania meet and Oberon says:

Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania. (II.1.60)

Isn’t that a great way to greet someone you’re quarrelling with?!

I also love Lysander’s smart aleck line to Demetrius in the opening scene:

You have her father’s love, Demetrius,
Let me have Hermia’s: do you marry him.
(I.1.93-94)

It cracks me up every time. He’s saying: you and her father love each other so much, why don’t you marry him! Cracks me up; it’s such a typical teenage wisecrack.

Lastly, I get a big kick out of P&T. The whole thing is so ridiculous. Every time I hear the following lines I start laughing. Pyramus goes to the tomb to meet Thisby and instead finds her bloodied scarf and (wrongly) thinks she’s dead:

    But stay: O spite!
    But mark, poor knight,
What dreadful dole is here?
    Eyes, do you see?
    How can it be?
O dainty duck, O dear!
(V.1.271-276)

It’s just so “mechanical” and silly! 

Okay, I think that’s about all I have to say about A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Please let me know if you have any comments, things you are thinking about the play or anything you’d like me to think about. I’d be happy to hear from you. I have a couple more film adaptations to watch, and then I will move on to the next play: Much Ado About Nothing.

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