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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: April ::
Re: Keanu Does Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0721  Friday, 23 April 1999.

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 Apr 1999 10:36:34 -0700
        Subj:   SHK 10.0712 Re: Keanu Does Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 Apr 1999 15:16:43 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.06649 Re: Keanu Does Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Moira Russell <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 21 Apr 1999 20:22:32 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0704 Re: Keanu Does Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 Apr 1999 10:36:34 -0700
Subject: Re: Keanu Does Shakespeare
Comment:        SHK 10.0712 Re: Keanu Does Shakespeare

My very contrite and abject apologies to Janet MacLellan.  I try very
hard not to put words into the mouths of others, and it seems I failed
and did so here.  Please forgive.

All the best,
Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 Apr 1999 15:16:43 EDT
Subject: 10.06649 Re: Keanu Does Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.06649 Re: Keanu Does Shakespeare

Tom Reedy wrote:
>Yes, but if he ever plays the role of Vice-President Al Gore, he'll win
>an Oscar.

In our recent interactive dinner theatre murder mystery, *Best Little
White House*, Al Gore was played by a cardboard cutout.  You can see the
results at http://shenandoah.peachnet.edu/nctc/white.htm

Dale Lyles
Newnan Community Theatre Company
Newnan, GA, Theatrical Mecca of the Universe <tm>

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Moira Russell <
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Date:           Wednesday, 21 Apr 1999 20:22:32 -0700
Subject: 10.0704 Re: Keanu Does Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0704 Re: Keanu Does Shakespeare

Mr. Jensen respectfully disagrees with Ms. MacLellan,

>I don't remember the name of the very fine actor who played Don John in
>the BBC version - which is embarrassing because I met him hanging out at
>the Rose Theater site a decade ago - but he too gave a "stiff"
>performance.

Mr. Jensen-or anyone who has seen this production-I'd greatly appreciate
more information on the actor, his performance, or where I can get the
video, as it sounds as if he managed to make Don John at least
convincing.  I think it telling that his very first words, after
Beatrice's merry skirmish with the bewildered but good-natured Messenger
and the opening shots between her and Benedick, are:  "I thank you.  I
am not of many words, but I thank you."  After his "canker in a hedge"
speech in I.iii (which I believe Ms. MacLellan already quoted), his
pouncing on the news of Claudio's wedding ("If I can cross him any way,
I bless myself every way") and his desire that the cook poison everyone,
I can believe Beatrice's description he is "too like an image and says
nothing".  I think my own problem with Keanu Reeves' interpretation was
that while he looked the part when silent, when he opened his mouth Don
John's stinginess of words and stiff manner seemed caused not by
authorial intent but actorly ineptitude.

Don John seems to me like a comic-book version of Iago-he wants to make
"Much Ado About Nothing" into "Othello," and I've always found his zest
to destroy happiness, simply because he cannot have any, very chilling
in the middle of this charming, wordswept, sunlit comedy.  I think his
being a nasty dark abstract streak in the middle of the charming pastel
pastoral play probably only contributes to the difficulty of the part.
At least with Don John, for a lot of the time the actor merely has to
sulk well, and at least the other characters keep commenting on his
sulking-as opposed to Iago, who is supposed to be 1) absolutely evil and
2) undetectable.

I quote Anne Barton's excellent introductory essay to the play:  "The
fact that Don John was born a bastard becomes an all-sufficient
explanation of why it is that he is treacherous, scheming, savage, and
morose.  A thing of darkness, out of step with his society, he hates the
children of light simply because they generate radiance in a world he
prefers to see dark.  This is why he plans to wreck the intended
marriage of Claudio and Hero.  He has nothing to gain personally from
such a tactic, except the pleaure of annoying his brother, grieving
Claudio, turning laughter to tears, and reducing everyone around him to
the state of misery and gloom in which he languishes himself.  A plot
mechanism more than a complex character in his own right, Don John
appears in the play as a kind of anti-comic force, the official enemy of
all happy endings."

A possible spinoff of this thread:  Is Iago possibly, secretly, a
bastard?  While writing this out, I commented to my husband, "Every
bastard in Shakespeare is evil-wait, that's not how it sounds!"

Moira
 

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