The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0967 Wednesday, 28 April 2004
Date: Tuesday, 27 Apr 2004 13:30:46 -0700
Subject: 1976 Ashland "The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It"
Cut-and-paste 'Curate Shakespeare' is an oddity
By Joe Adcock
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Theater Critic
April 27, 2004
The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It
PLAYWRIGHT: Don Nigro revision of the comedy by William Shakespeare
WHERE: Tacoma Actors Guild, 915 Broadway, Tacoma
WHEN: Through May 9
This production is like an art project in which a picture is cut up, and
then the pieces are pasted onto another picture. The cut-up picture in
this case is William Shakespeare's most popular comedy, the aptly named
"As You Like It." The picture onto which the pieces are pasted depicts
psychodrama group therapy for 1970s hippies. Their psychedelic VW van
pulls into a parking lot. And they proceed to stage "As You Like It."
More or less.
Shakespeare's scenes are squeezed or omitted. Several of his characters
are excised. Six actors play four or five roles each. A seventh actor,
severely burned out by too many bad drug trips or something, comments,
sings, mimes and, on occasion, runs amok. [See addendum from another
The other actors don't exactly run amok. But they do act out their
personal and interpersonal problems from time to time. The addled
therapist/participant is referred to as "Curate" ("caretaker" in
English, "heal thyself" in Spanish).
"The Curate Shakespeare," the current Tacoma Actors Guild production, is
odd. At times it is refreshing. At times it is annoyingly cute. Despite
his title character's exasperated generalizations about life, playwright
Don Nigro's cut and paste and doodle treatment makes no particularly
Unless, of course, the point is to present a name brand audience pleaser
without having to hire two-dozen actors. Oddly enough, "The Curate
Shakespeare" was commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which
has something like 50 actors on its payroll at any given moment. In any
event, since it premiered in 1976, the play has been a perennial
favorite with schools, community theaters and regional companies.
TAG director Pat Patton (an Oregon Festival alumnus) offers a balance of
silliness and sincerity. Betsy Schwartz is tedious as the Curate group's
resident whiner. But she is very effective when she (or, rather, her
character) finally gets down to work. Kate Wisniewski is similarly
effective in her Shakespeare roles and similarly tedious as a bundle of
In fact, all of Patton's actors are impressive as Shakespeare characters
and not so impressive as Nigro characters. Danforth Comins plays
Shakespeare's romantic hero, Joshua Bott is a farcical rustic and Andrew
DeRycke is the resident jester. John Patrick Lowrie, as Curate, plays a
whole bunch of elderly men and Mari Nelson is the burn-out case.
A setting by Carey Wong goes way beyond the limits of a VW van and
whimsical group therapy. Particularly impressive are four pillars that,
on cue, sprout fronds to represent palm trees.
[The Tacoma paper's review
(http://www.tribnet.com/entertainment/story/5010607p-4938665c.ht ml) by
Alec Clayton is somewhat longer and explains how the small-cast version
works: "...this troupe intensifies the confusion to hilarious ends as
they present a play-within-a-play with six actors playing themselves and
20-something other characters. A seventh actor, Rosalind (Mari Nelson),
refuses to play herself and thinks there are even more characters in the
play. Serving as a chorus of one with the job of explaining the play to
the audience, she proclaims at one point that the next scene is going to
be a 'wedding orgy and pep rally' with 'all 37' characters on stage at
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