Sunday, February 11, 2018

Shall I Compare Thee To This Play?

Sometimes plays are adapted into movies.  Sometimes movies are adapted for the live stage.  Such is what happened to my favorite movie, "Shakespeare in Love".  I love far too many things about the film for any adaptation to be better in my eyes, but I was curious to see the play when it was performed by South Coast Repertory on the Segerstrom Stage.  The play opened on my birthday, which would have been a fun day to see it, but I had other plans.  So I convinced Liz to come with me, later apologizing that I didn't realize we had scheduled to see it on the same night as the Super Bowl.  Oops!

We arrived early and had a quick dinner at Panera after I picked up our tickets at the box office.  When we returned to the theater, I realized that we had front row seats!  Thank you, Goldstar!

View from our seats

  • We were so close to the stage that when the actors went down the steps and stood at the corner of the stage, they blocked my view.  I didn't mind, although I was a little worried we'd be casualties during the fight scene.
  • There was too much emphasis on Christopher (Kit) Marlowe's influence on Shakespeare.  The play starts with him giving advice to Will, and this advice continues throughout the play.  I almost felt like this was Marlowe's play at times, which irked me.  Was the playwright trying to make a statement?  Did they feel like Shakespeare never did his own work?  I get that he was known for stealing people's material, including Marlowe's, but that is not the point of this story for me and it seemed intrusive.
  • Despite my thoughts about Kit's influence, I did like the comedy during the balcony scene between Will and Viola as Kit feeds lines to him a la Cyrano de Bergerac.
  • I also liked the chemistry between Corey Brill (Kit) and Paul David Story (Will).  They played off each other well.  
  • But here's the thing:  I liked their chemistry more than I liked that between Will and Viola.  That's not how this is supposed to work, at least not for me.
  • Carmela Corbett does a fine job as Viola, and brought humor into the part, which I enjoyed.  I just didn't actually buy that Will and Viola had the kind of love about which Shakespeare was writing.  Perhaps part of that was she took a different approach in the boat scene when she recited my favorite bit of dialogue that starts with, "Tell me how you love her, Will." 
  • Why so much emphasis on the sonnet?  Why not more emphasis on the balcony scene?  In the film, when Viola and Sam rehearse the balcony scene, and it is edited so you see Will and Viola falling in love as they recite the lines to each other, I see the cast falling in love with the play itself.  This didn't happen at all during the play because we didn't see that part of the rehearsal at all.  I understand that this would be difficult to achieve because Viola would need to be in two places at once, but its absence was probably the reason I didn't connect to the play.  Also, I'm a hard sell on this story because of my love for the film, but I really did approach it with an open mind and an open heart, ready to like it a lot even without my beloved Joseph on the stage.
  • The music took me out of it, too.  While the musicians played the heck out of those 16th century instruments, I could have done without the singing.  I understand that this wasn't a musical, and it wasn't a choral concert, but the singers need to learn how to blend so I don't have to hear shrill voices.  I kind of giggled during these bits because I was uncomfortable and wanted to cover my ears.  Sorry.  
  • They had a dog! His name was Spot.  You know what happened, right?  Someone said, "Out, damn Spot."  <giggle>
  • There were a few other additions from some of Shakespeare's other plays, which I enjoyed.  I can't remember any of them, though.
  • Elyse Mirto played a wonderful Queen Elizabeth, and I loved the way she chastised Bill Brochtrup's Lord Wessex.  
  • Ew, I didn't like that Lord Wessex was trying to mac on Viola when he was alone with her in her bedroom.
  • I also liked Nick Gabriel's portrayal of Ned.  So very hammy.
  • The costumes were amazing!  Congratulations to Costume Designer Susan Tsu on such magnificent outfits.  I wanted to take Viola's boots from her.  Queen Elizabeth's gowns were every bit as royal as they should be.  I wish I could have taken pictures of all of the costumes so I could remember them forever.  Play Nurse's hat was outrageously large and I wonder how he didn't have neck problems every day, but it was comical and I loved it.  Also, what was up with Burbage's enormous, um, codpiece?!
So there you go.  I loved the costumes more than the adaptation, and I thought all of the actors did a great job.  I could have done without the folks behind us talking to each other when one didn't exactly hear what an actor said and the rest of the audience laughed.  I thought of buying a copy of the script so I could compare it even more in depth with the movie, but nobody was actually behind the kiosk to sell it, and then it was closed after the show.  So how do they make money off those items?  I don't get it.

Liz said she thought this adaptation was sadder than the movie, and she wanted to see the movie again.  I don't concur, but that's because my usual emotional self just didn't feel it here.  I'll need to watch my movie soon so I can love it all over again.  Don't get me wrong: I didn't hate the play.  My bias is just too great to overcome in this case, but I am glad that I saw it.  

Performances ended yesterday, but if it is performed again in the area, I hope my friends see it and tell me what they think, too.  Thanks for attending with me, Liz!

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