Certifiable lunacy in Shakespeare-land

By |2018-01-16T17:22:17-05:00October 11th, 2007|Entertainment|

By Robert W. Bethune

First of all, right off the top, there are some spoilers in what follows. Don’t worry. There’s a great deal more that remains quite perfectly unspoiled.
Imagine the Rude Mechanicals from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” falling from foolishness into lunacy. Now imagine them breaking out of the confines of whatever establishment to which they may have been committed and running riot all over Shakespeare’s plays. That, in a slaphappy, punch-drunk, wild-eyed sort of way is what you have in Blair Anderson’s production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).”
Bottom the Weaver, you see, corresponds to the character of Jeff, played by Jeff Thomakos. Cheerful, burly, with a powerful voice, Jeff’s Jeff/Bottom is a happy-go-lucky, cheerful thespian who is unfazed by anything including complete abandonment by his fellow actors. “Lutty’s faster than Dylan, so he’ll probably bring him back soon. Meantime, let’s have an intermission!…Nice intermission? What did you do?”
On the other hand, Dylan, played by Dylan Stuckey, clearly corresponds to Francis Flute, rather slight and tenor-voiced, who plays the women’s parts. He’s also the querulous one who worries about acting issues, not least of which is fear for his/her honor; his Juliet is reduced to yelling “No, I don’t want to kiss you, Jeff!” in Jeff’s powerful, indeed ruthless, embrace.
Of course, Lutty, played by Jeff Luttermoser, corresponds to Peter Quince, who tries to keep things rational, but is pretty much defeated – not that it bothers him much – by the craziness around him. It falls to him to be Hamlet in the second half of the show, and he even manages to do a sort of rough justice to the part, even if Dylan does steal the best speech. Well, in this sort of thing, you get that sort of thing. It comes with the territory.
Anderson directs the show in a laid-back, slaphappy, easy-going fashion that suits the material very well. This show and this production aren’t about the hair-trigger, volatile precision of farce. This is just the broadest kind of clowning, and we are even invited to clown around with the gang. If you learn lines well, sit house right. If you are the adventurous type, sit up front and be ready for anything from pitch-and-toss to manslaughter, as Dickens put it. I say no more.
The design elements are intriguing, yet curious. Andrea Bear’s costuming fits right in; it is as silly as the play itself, if not sillier at times. For example, the life ring from the S. S. Minnow becomes a costume element, and why not? The theme from M.A.S.H. becomes a vocal element, so what’s to hold a designer back? On the other hand, Lex van Blommestein’s set is very classical; tall Greek columns with the serif H of the Hilberry on top, alternating with a couple of busts of Shakespeare, and Tom Schraeder’s lighting tends to run a bit disco-ish. I wouldn’t say these approaches fit, but I’d be hard pressed to say they need to!

REVIEW:
‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)’
Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass Ave., Detroit. Plays in rotating repertory through Dec. 15. Tickets: $20-$30. For information: 313-577-2972 or http://www.hilberry.com

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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.