Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Spritz on Both Our Houses

Posted by Bruce Miller
In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the mega-hit movie from 2002, the father of the bride uses Windex as a cure-all. “Put some Windex!” he continually shouts as he sprays every ailment from facial blemishes to curvature of the spine.

At last night’s Bootleg Shakespeare production of Romeo and Juliet, Windex’s “medicinal” properties did an about-face. The Smurf-blue solvent stood in as the poison that brought about the final demise of our title characters.

Jacquie O’Connor, in the role of the Apothecary, rummaged through her bag of tricks for the toxicant Romeo requested. She pulled out a bra, a pop culture magazine, and a few other dainties before finally retrieving the powerful venom (in a convenient spray bottle) for which she had been searching.

By design, the actors in Bootleg Shakespeare provided their own props. Anything can and did happen. After the Windex arrived on stage, it was a slippery slope to the climactic reconciliation of Capulet and Montague.

When young Paris tried to prevent Romeo from entering Juliet’s crypt, Romeo dispatched his rival not with a dagger or sword but with a quick spray of Windex to the face. Soon thereafter, Romeo removed the spray nozzle and guzzled the Windex down, immediately responding with the exact grimace and gurgle one would expect should one contemplate a greedy gulp of household cleanser.

Suffice it to say, last night was not your daddy’s Shakespeare.

But it may have been somewhat reminiscent of your great great great…(add however many greats it takes to get you back to the late 16th century) granddaddy’s experiences with the Bard.
Scholars advise us that Shakespeare’s plays at the Old Globe were performed after only minimal rehearsal (Bootleg Shakespeare was rehearsed over the course of one day), and that they almost certainly were not directed (the concept of a stage director uniting a cast’s intentions did not emerge until two to three hundred years later).

Also, all of Shakespeare’s women were played by men. So when all the world was Shakespeare's, seeing the wonderful Molly Hood as Juliet would have been far more jarring than seeing the equally wonderful Fredrick Kaufman as Juliet’s Nurse.

Best of all, there was no reverence whatsoever in last night’s friend- and fund-raiser for the up-and-coming Henley Street Theatre. For one night only, Shakespeare’s work was light on gravitas and rife with spontaneity—which I suspect was VERY much what the Bard himself expected and experienced in merry old London.

And in the middle of everything, was Joe Carlson's magnificent portrayal of Mercutio.

Just like Shakespeare, last night’s event was popular with the masses. Granted, it was free and there was only one performance. Nonetheless, what a thrill it was to drive into the parking lot at Willow Lawn at 6:10 pm and see a line of well over a hundred stretching from Barksdale’s front door half way to Staples.

Now if they'll only return for the sheer delight of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

All of us at Barksdale felt privileged to have had the opportunity to work in cooperation with Henley Street as they brought to Richmond this fun and exciting new venture. If you couldn’t make it last night (or arrived too late to snag a ticket to the sold-out event), you missed a night to remember.

Congratulations to all involved!

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Laura/CenterDownHome said...

It was wonderful! We were a party of eight, three parents and five teens, and we all loved it. The kids stayed up late, laughing and talking about the performance long after I went to bed! We can't wait to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee!