Sunday, April 2, 2023

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 they were played in the tiny theater at the local college, which suited the premise much better than last year when they were in the cavernous large theater. Instead of being mostly empty, the audience seating was packed.

This year the premises were Shakespeare plays in various historical settings. The winner of the audience appreciation vote was The Comedy of Errors in the Wild West. This was a pretty straightforward adaptation, with Antipholus the sheriff facing Antipholus the bank robber, with the usual confusion over which Dromio belongs to which. It was the director's idea to have the characters' spurs (which the actors weren't actually wearing) make noise, so every time somebody walked they'd say "ching, ching, ching ..." Although the highlight was the human tumbleweed, for which the actor tucked up her knees, grabbed them with her hands, and formed a ball which rolled across the stage.

My favorite was Julius Caesar set in the 1990s, in which Casca, having made a threatening phone call, murders Julia Caesar (played by a woman) two days early, having gotten confused over when the Ides of March were. (In some months, the Ides actually are the 13th.) When Brutus and Cassius complain, Casca suggests they just prop Caesar's body up as if it were alive, but that's shot down on the grounds that Weekend at Bernie's was an Eighties movie and this is supposed to be the Nineties.

Other entries, all of them at least passingly amusing, were A Midsummer Night's Dream in the Ice Age, in which the only character actually from the play was Puck, played by a pre-teen boy, whose best line was, "My job is to create chaos and complicate your lives, and believe me, it's not that hard to do"; As You Like It as high-school truants in the 1980s, the best-acted of the bunch; and a Much Ado in which Beatrice and Benedick keep arguing even while on the block to be executed in the French Revolution.

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