Sunday, January 10, 2021

another 48-hour Shakespeare play festival

Silicon Valley Shakespeare does this annually: giving teams each with 4 actors, a writer, and a director 48 hours to write and rehearse a 10-minute skit based on a given Shakespeare play and employing a given premise, each different for each skit, and then perform them before an audience when the 48 hours are up. I've seen these before, and they can be pretty funny.

This year, of course, they had to be done over Zoom, and all eight were performed live as we watched them, so the premises were also all pandemic-based. Rather brilliantly, most took the characters and concept of the play and translated them to a contemporary setting, so the Zoom was integral to the plot and not just to the performance; a couple even threw in references to Wednesday's coup. Strangely, two of them were about cooking competitions, and a third also mentioned food: Macbeth as a corporate virtual happy hour meeting, with Mackers trying to hide what he'd been doing over at Duncan's place, pretending that the red stuff on his hands was cranberries he'd been crushing for juice by hand. "I like it tart," he says. "You know, in Scotland we don't sweeten things, we tartan them."

That was the most groanworthy line of the evening, and Max Tachis, the writer, also earns points for creative use of the chat function, having M. and Lady M. exchanging messages about the murder plot that they don't realize aren't private and the other characters can see them.

Better still was Ross Arden Harkness's "Blow Zoom and Crack Your Cheeks," in which a modern Lear convenes his daughters (all excellently characterized) online to tell them the terms of his will, but his Zoom feed keeps freezing at critical moments, so they can't figure out what he's telling them. (Rather than actually attempting to freeze the feed, the actor playing Lear just stopped talking or moving and then cut his feed. It worked well enough.)

But the best of all was "The Scourge of Verona" by Anne Yumi Kobori, initially a comedy but which turns into a tragedy when Juliet's father murders Romeo for possession of the last roll of toilet paper in the city. The Nurse, played by a man in falsetto, was especially good, but what made this play particularly outstanding in the bunch was the author's ability to write much of her contemporary dialogue in Shakespearean verse form.

I voted for those two in the audience poll, and I guess others agreed because they won the poll. But everything was at least interesting. A good evening "out" and the most refreshing I've had in a while.

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