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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: August ::
Re: *WT* Production; *Rom.* Ending; Sh&Co *Ado*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0654.  Tuesday, 29 August 1995.
 
(1)     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Aug 95 14:28:53 EDT
        Subj:   [*WT* Production]
 
(2)     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Aug 95 14:30:05 EDT
        Subj:   [*Rom.* Ending]
 
(3)     From:   G. L. Horton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Aug 1995 00:35:37 -0400
        Subj:   Shakespeare and Company Much Ado
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Aug 95 14:28:53 EDT
Subject:        [*WT* Production]
 
Dale Lyles worries about sustaining audience sympathy for Leontes, and finds
that he cannot imagine playing the scene between L. and Mamillius with the
latter in his pj's because bringing them so close makes L's later work
irrecoverably savage: "He killed that child."  There are child murderers in
Shakespeare, but with respect to Mamillius (Perdita is another matter) Leontes
is not one of the them in the sense that Richard III and his agents or Macbeth
and his agents are--he's not even as guilty as King John, since his expressed
desire is to save the boy from his mother's corruption, not lose him, and his
crazy misreading of Mamillius' sickness (2.3.12-17) is more pitiable than
culpable.  For (to respond to the other issue) the way to preserve Leontes'
place in the affections of the audience is surely to persuade them that, like
that other jealous husband, Othello, his excesses of suspicion and hatred arise
from his excesses of love, and are a kind of madness.  The very moving and
satisfying WT at Stratford, Ont., a few years back began 5.1. with Colm Feore
as Leontes literally prostrate with remorse, stretched out on his stomach,
groveling before an altar with a lighted candle on it, not rising to show the
audience a face visibly and even shockingly aged until well into the scene
(50?): this is a man who has not drawn a contented breath in 16 years (even
were he capable of it on his own Paulina is always there to twist the knife
again, as she repeatedly does in the scene).  I think it's useful to approach
WT by way of _Antigone_, another play where the confusion of public and private
motives and the rigid pursuit of an initial misjudgment cost a man everything
in the world that he values.  Leontes' joy at the outset can readily enough be
seen as hubristic; certainly his arrogation to himself of all juridical
authority is sufficient to provoke classically- conceived divinities to a
terrible response--if balanced, in this play, by the delights of Part II.
 
Agonistically,
Dave Evett
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Aug 95 14:30:05 EDT
Subject:        [*Rom.* Ending]
 
Catherine Fitzmaurice Kozubei wonders why Romeo and Juliet's allies (Balthasar,
Friar Laurence) seem to lose heart toward the end of the play.  I don't think
it merely reductive to propose that the reason is generic.  The work is a play,
not a novel: the psychology particularly in question at any given point is that
of the spectators, not the character.  And it is a tragedy--a tragedy,
moreover, that starts out like a comedy, and that keeps trying to be a comedy
almost to the end--the scene prior to Balthasar's report of Juliet's death
begins with the potentially comic response of the aristocratic Capulets to
Juliet's _faux_-death and proceeds to the low comedy of th4e Capulet servants.
If the audience is to be swung into an appropriately grave and apprehensive
mood for the scene in the tomb (5.3), just about every line in 5.1 and 2 needs
to be invested with gravity and anxiety--too much festal anticipation and the
deaths are likely to seem totally capricious and irrational.  That's not all
that useful to a director or dramaturg trying to help psychologically oriented
actors make sense of their parts, of course.  You could play B. as a worry-wart
from the get-go; Romeo's description prepares for a grisly Apothecary; and the
element of desperation in the Friar's essentially improvisational approach to
the R-J problem can begin to be apparent early in 4.1--"O Juliet, I already
know thy grief, / It strains me pass the compass of my wit"--so that something
close to panic is a predictable response to Friar John's bad news.
 
Apprehensively,
Dave Evett
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           G. L. Horton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Aug 1995 00:35:37 -0400
Subject:        Shakespeare and Company Much Ado
 
Here is the review of the current Shakes & Co.MUCH ADO in Lenox, written for
the on-line magazine AisleSay.
 
The Web site is http://www.escape.com/~theanet.AisleSay.html
 
  Much Ado About Nothing:  Main Stage
 
The  Shakespeare and Company main stage production of  "Much Ado About Nothing"
is so close to perfection that it is almost impious to attempt to dissect it.
It is an organic whole, a living thing, and the appropriate response is simply
applause. Director Tina Packer has been working with this text and this stage
and this company for what amounts to an artistic lifetime, and the sum of all
that experience adds up to a "Much Ado" that should be seen, savored, and
cherished in the memory forever.
 
Lighting designer   Michael Giannitti   has bathed  the Company's outdoor stage
with magic beams. In the ceremonial scenes, set and costume designer John
Pennoyer   has devised  a Watteau-inspired wealth of detail stretching into the
grove's leafy distance as far as the eye can travel.  Packer and choreographer
 Susan Dibble   have plotted the actors' movement through this space as one
vast dance, while miraculously maintaining an impression of naturalness and
spontaneity.
 
In   Ariel Bock's   Beatrice and   Jonathan Epstein  's Benedicke the
production has a quarreling couple as downright and witty as one could wish.
They display a full set of foibles along with their abundant charm. But they
are clearly creatures who, seeing at a slant, also see farther and deeper than
their friends -- and they are clearly born  to love each other.
 
The peculiar virtue of this production is its balance.  It is almost unfair to
single out any particular actor for praise. Each of them, down to the smallest
of the children swelling the crowd scenes, contributes exactly as much as is
appropriate to enrich the whole, and not an ego-drop more. This is the sort of
seamless ensemble theatre lovers dream about, the kind that takes years to
assemble.  The clowns of the Watch,  led by   Jonathan Croy  's Dogberry and
Timothy Saukiavicus  's Verges, are funny because they are honestly trying to
do a neighborly job; and even funnier because they don't resort to extraneous
shtick to cue the audience's laughter.
 
The relationship between Hero   (Kristin Wold)   and Claudio  (Allyn Burrows)
is the subject of "Much Ado"'s main plot, and for once these usually shallow
figures have dimensionality.  The pair's pain and rage at betrayal is given
full emotional weight, even at the risk of making their eventual reconciliation
impossible.  It is the power of music and ritual that allows them to forgive
and forget, in a stunning  graveyard scene of mystical transmutation.  Packer
stages it to resemble emblems out of the middle ages: the scourging of a saint,
the consecration of a knight, a baptism.   Count Claudio is stripped of rank
and raiment while a choir sings, and then, wrapped in white for the wedding
that -- because he has surrendered his self will and his power to choose, and
sworn to cherish his wife whoever she may be  -- symbolizes his rebirth.
 
The sole oddity in this superlative but quite traditional production grows out
of the director's focus on the "silencing" of women in "a society where women
have power only through their alliance with powerful men."  Packer has decided
that in the place of the bastard brother Don John, the character of the
aggrieved sibling who is embittered and jealous of  Don Pedro's monopoly of the
family's wealth and power should be a sister, Donna Gianna.    Corinna May
plays this virago with a cracking bullwhip and a blood-curdling snarl.   Ms.
May's skill  makes the director's notion plausible, though not persuasive.
Destroying the reputation and the life of Hero, a young woman who has never
harmed her,  breaking up Claudio's marriage simply because Claudio is one of
her resented brother's buddies: this seems a pretty roundabout way for a
villain to punish her brother.   Whether John or Gianna, Shakespeare might have
given him/her a speech or two more by way of  justification.  But suppose those
speeches had Edmund the Bastard's eloquence?  "Much Ado" would be "About
Something Else", and the play would have to end not in a double wedding and a
dance but as "Lear" does, in a heap of dead bodies. Surely it is to consider
too curiously to consider so?  Donna Gianna is led on in chains at the end ,
her face bruised and bloody. Shakespeare has his villain disappear once the
plot is set in motion,. The best comment on that  is Benedicke's : "Play,
music...think not on him (or her?) until tomorrow."
 
G.L.Horton
Newton, MA, USA

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