Why can't I like productions of Shakespeare plays set in periods and places different from what Shakespeare intended? Well, I don't necessarily hate them. But there's no production in a creative setting where I don't think, "This would have been better if they'd listened to Shakespeare." It held true when I saw The Comedy of Errors last night at San Diego's Old Globe, built to resemble the original Globe in London. Not that you'd know when the stage was dressed to look like New Orleans in the 20s.
Everyone else in the audience seemed to eat it up. The broad, Jim Carrey antics by the guy playing the Dromios, the Calista Flockhart style wailing from Megan Dodds, the woman who played Adriana. Actually, I thought she was the best performer in the show. She and Rory O'Malley, who played the Dromios, were the only ones who didn't sound like high school theatre students with that same annoying, vaguely Nathan Lane-ish, tinny even volume delivery that seems to be standard issue now for aspiring Broadway actors. The sets were nice, the costumes were cool despite the fact that everyone was wearing c-crown fedoras which didn't really become popular until the late 1930s. But I guess that's a real nitpick when we live in a day and age where people are locked in debate over what's a trilby and what's a fedora.
I saw the show for the Shakespeare class I'm taking now. One of the actors came to the class to talk to us, the guy who played the person the jeweller is indebted to. I asked him if he's performed in many plays set in the time and place Shakespeare intended. He rolled his eyes and said, yes, he's had to wear the "pumpkin pants" and complained how some of the theatre's sponsors demand plays set according to Shakepeare's desires. These people don't understand, he explained, that Shakespeare, "needs to be relevant." He talked about how the director of the play employed various different forms of cliff notes and something called "No Fear Shakespeare" when putting the production together. It was all rather depressing.
The Duke was portrayed as a gangster, the idea being that the gangs who ran the cities during prohibition would be the real authorities. So to someone I guess it makes sense that a gangster would take time to pity a humble merchant but also still feel bound by law to execute him. I guess it was crucially "relevant" to the audience that Doctor Pinch was an American faith healer instead of a conjurer. Well, it was a cute idea. The worst thing about these productions isn't that the ideas are all bad but just that they're ideas, they're someone else's art shouldering out Shakespeare's. I guess I should just be happy they didn't insert a new subplot or two.
Twitter Sonnet #790
The sandwich dimples grate not the gouda.
No rougher bread approached the cutting board.
A bird could walk and maybe it shoulda.
Says God, no lunch has come for Bruce's ward.
Denounced and pantless rabbits saw carrots.
Windmills disproved machismo finally.
Ask not for whom the piano garrottes.
A stripe recalls the hornet cannily.
Evangelical go-backs fill the cart.
Unspent spectators trickle down the street.
The brightest lights obscure the cold Wal-Mart.
A sixteen hundred foot fell on no beat.
Cool questions blankly melt in bourbon clouds.
Copious grease has pierced the to-go shrouds.