Of bears and sheep and gouged out eyes

You’ve got a week left to check out the play with the bard’s most famous stage direction of them all at Bard on the Beach. The Winter’s Tale will leave you roaring or bleating, depending on your spirit animal. (Photo & Image Design, David Cooper & Emily Cooper)

Daniel J. Rowe

There are seven days left to check out one of the Bard Brawl’s favourite venues for Shakespearean plays, so, those in the Pacific Northwest, what are you waiting for.

Let’s have a look at Bard on the Beach‘s production of The Winter’s Tale.

BOB’s Winter’s Tale is its traditional production of the season, and it’s a fine production to be sure. My mom was very excited about the costumes.

Classic costumes, pillars and masks all add to the excellent aesthetic of BOB’s Winter’s Tale. (Photo: David Blue)

I caught the BOB’s 2006 production, which was also good. The 2017 had a little more to it production wise, which paid off in spades.

It’s always good to catch a traditional production and also always good to catch it with your teenaged niece to see if she can handle it.

When did she get so bleeping tall?

How did director Dean Paul Gibson do?

Very good I have to say.

This play is no easy play to put on.

For those who haven’t read or seen it a brief synopsis:

King Leontes (Kevin MacDonald) of “Bavaria” (with a coastline and everything. Who said global warming is a modern issue) is all in love and happy with his wife Hermoine (Sereana Malani), but then he notices his wife is spending a little too much time with his bestie King Polixenes (Ian Butcher). Are they holding hands?! OMG, kill them all. So yeah a bunch of jealousy, the pregnant queen “dies” in jail, and the king wants to kill the baby too, so ferried away the young Perdita (later Kaitlin Williams) is. She’s saved from a bear (poor Antigonus (Andrew Wheeler)), found by a Sicilian shepherd, meets Florizel (Austin Eckert) 16 years later, who may also be royalty, and then it’s all wrapped up in the end back in Bohemia. There are sheep, there’s a bear, there’s magic and there’s a guy picking everyone’s pockets throughout.

Just go see it. It will all make sense.

Before anything else, the question is: do they pull off the following quote.

Antigonus: This is the chase, I am gone forever.

[Exit, pursued by a bear]

This is the highlight of the show that everyone is waiting for, and like Mark Antony’s speech, “my kingdom for a horse,” the murder of Duncan or “to be or not to be,” directors need to nail this one.

Does Gibson in fact, nail it? Absolutely.

Wheeler is great as Antigonus and the bear is incredible, as is the creepy appearance of Hermoine with eyes pulled out and everything. I was actually a little worried my niece would be traumatized by that image.

Props to designers for choosing a bear breed native to the Pacific Northwest, and extra credit for actually having the bear on stage and attack Antigonus rather than the always disappointing roar offstage.

Ok. That’s out of the way, and how about the rest?

This play is not easy to direct or produce, as it’s essentially two plays in one: the cold world of men and court in the first half, and the pastoral matriarchal world of the second half. How do you make them both work, so the play comes off as a single story. Both bard brawl co-captain Eric Jean and I studied this under the wise tutelage of Dr. Kevin “K-Pax” Pask, and it helped a bunch to understand the finer points that can whizz right by if you’re not paying attention.

Gibson does a good job at balancing the two halves, and using simple, but effective stage pieces to illustrate greater themes.

One criticism I had was the intensity of some performances in the first act.

My brother and I were chatting after about actors taking it up to 11 and keeping it there for too long, which a few did. It’s a little wearying and a few of the performers could have used a drop in intensity at times during the first half.

MacDonald, however, gets top marks for his jealous and tortured tyrant turned suppliant and guilt ridden victim. He, most of all actors on stage, varies his performance giving it a depth needed in such a complex character.

Oh, and the sheep… Amazing

Putting a quality sheep on stage makes everything better. My aunt loved them much like everyone else it seemed. (Photo, David Blue)

The second half, with it’s pastoral airiness and light humour is incredibly designed, well acted, fun, funny and a joy to watch. Williams and Eckart are all charm and aided by the humour stylings of Autolycus (Ben Elliott), who’s great.

The play wraps in one of the bard’s finest endings that Gibson’s production does incredibly well. The magic of it all leaves that, dang. Yes! That’s why I like the bard feeling inside, and makes the whole thing wrap in a nice bow.

So, in answer to the “what did you think?” question everyone gets after leaving a play. Here goes.

The BOB’s 2017 version of The Winter’s Tale is a well-balanced, well-acted and incredibly designed show though almost too heavy at sections towards the front of the play. The play is one of the purists to be sure. The theme is tricky, the language heavy and some of the aspects of it take a little suspension of disbelief as well as critical study. That study, my friends, makes everything better.

Be well and let us be all so luck as to exit, pursued by a bear.

Get me out of court and into the country with the shepherds. Am I right? (Photo, David Blue)
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Merchant done oh so right

Daniel J. Rowe

Bard Brawl co-captain Eric Jean and I are asked often one question: did Shakespeare really write all those plays?

Ugh.

Ok maybe two questions.

What’s your favourite play?

Neither of us have one “favourite,” but we both say almost always Othello for tragedy and Merchant of Venice for comedy, and then add a couple more, but none as much as those two.

This meant I did not want to miss and was pumped to check out Bard on the Beach‘s production of the Merchant knowing BOB always pulls out at least one or two truly quality productions per season.

I saw BOB’s production of Merchant in 2003, which was very good.

How is the 2017 production?

Absolutely amazing.

Go see it.

Director Nigel Shawn Williams nailed it, and I walked away thinking, ‘was that the best Shakespeare production I’ve ever seen?”

Merchant is one of the most important plays, and particularly vital in the current xenophobic culture drowning in intolerance of the other and an obsession with sticking to one’s own. Williams’ modern day Italy style replete with drunk, loud hipster douchebags completely self-involved cackling at others’ misfortunes and gobbling up their misogyny and racism like a gaggle of entitled rich kids in a boarding school is completely appropriate and completely successful.

Edward Foy as Antonio gets the plays first lines:

“In sooth, I know not why I am so sad,

It wearies me; you say it wearies you;

but how I caught it, found it, or came by it,

What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born,

I am to learn;

and such a want wit sadness makes of me,

that I have much ado to know myself,” I,i

Every production I’ve seen (including BOB’s 2003 one) sets Antonio as melancholy, thoughtful and tortured, but Williams does not.

Antonio is an asshole here.

This choice, to play Antonio thus, is the first of many excellent choices in a great production.

Short break for a plot rundown:

Antonio is sad, loans his friend Bassanio (Charlie Gallant) money to woo a pretty orphan named Portia (Olivia Hunt). Antonio doesn’t have the money on him so he borrows it from the Jew Shylock (Warren Kimmel), who says, ‘sure man. You can have it, and if you forfeit the bond I won’t even ask for the money, just a pound of your flesh.’ Antonio says sure, loses all his money, and…. Well, go see the play.

Kimmel steals the show. As Shylock, he is stoic and honourable and powerful, while also being tragic and sympathetic and vulnerable. He chews up ever scene with grace and understated rage.

The audience is struck silent when Gratiano (Kamyar Pazandeh) spits in his face.

Warren Kimmel as Skylock is outstanding in Bard on the Beach’s 2017 production. (photo, David Blue)

The dichotomy between the douches and Shylock is incredible and unnerving to watch. There are few moments of comedy in this “comedy,” and more a growing rage at a dominant class of people stomping on those of an other group.

Shakespeare plays often mirror the current climates, as seen in this Merchant or Public Theater’s Donald Trump style Julius Caesar in Central Park. It’s one reason the bard endures. Count on Othello and King Lear productions popping up very soon.

Then there is the “love story” in Merchant.

Thank you, thank you, thank you Williams for recognizing what a sick and twisted world it is that produces a situation where a Portia’s status, money, house, and identity will be taken from her because of a test her father concocted.

Portia is stuck. She must marry whichever suitor chooses the right casement, which comes with a riddle. Generally, this is where directors go for comedy. The arrogant Morocco, the crazy Aragon often blast onto the stage and make everyone laugh at their pomposity.

Not this time.

The suitor scenes, like the rest of the play, stay intense and dark with little room for comedy. (photo, David Blue)

The suitor scenes are just uncomfortable and the discomfort is even greater when Bassiano (on the short list for all time sleaze bag characters of Shakespeare) guesses right.

Consider this: Bassiano only gets to woo Portia because Antonio lent him money. Antonio loses said money and Bassiano runs to help his one true love. The case is lost when Portia (in disguise) shows up to bail him out with her money that Bassiano offers back to her and then he gives her the ring she told him not to.

These people are idiots, and the coupling up at the end is far from a happy ending. Williams pushes this particularly with Jessica (Carmelo Sison) and Lorenzo (Chirag Naik), which is particularly apt.

Lorenzo’s seduction of Jessica causes her to lose her identity and people for a complete zero, and it’s is hard to watch her killer line – “I am never merry when I hear sweet music” – is powerful and tragic, and beautifully foreshadowed by Shylock singing from his room.

Speaking of Shylock. Williams did well to cast Solaria (Adele Noronha) and Solania (Kate Besworth) as female, and Kimmel nails the most famous speech:

“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” III,i

 

You just gotta see it.

A couple other notes: this play shows how to act in slow motion. The video projections are unnecessary (the only small complaint I had). The sound is great, and the set is solid.

Don’t let the label “comedy” fool you. This play isn’t funny. In a modern context it’s a tragedy on three fronts.

It’s a tragedy of the outsider. It’s a tragedy of feminism, and it’s a tragedy of law. Those with power, Shylock, Portia and the law of Venice, are by the end torn apart. Those with arrogance win.

Williams somehow manages to get all three messages through. Well done.

Tragedy. Tragedy. Tragedy.

I loved this performance, and for those in BC who want to see a modern, stylish and near-perfect rendition of one of the Bard’s finest plays, do yourself a favour. There’s not much time left.

It ends September 16.

Kimmel and Foy are the perfect juxtaposition in a near-perfect production of Merchant of Venice. (Photo, David Blue)

 

 

Two gents, two ladies, and a dog on the beach

Bard on the Beach always pulls an obscure play out of the cannon this year opting for the early comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona. The play runs through the summer and would be wise to catch while it’s around.

Jacob Roberts

 

 

 

 

Okay. Let’s break this down.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona follows Proteus (Charlie Gallant) and Valentine (Nadeem Phillip), two young gents from (where else?) Verona to Milan where they are supposed to be expanding their minds and bettering themselves as young, affluent gentlemen.

Instead, they end up at odds over the same woman – Silvia (Adele Noronha) – even though Proteus had quite recently promised himself to Julia (Kate Besworth), who is back in Verona. Continue reading “Two gents, two ladies, and a dog on the beach”

BB, The Comedy of Errors, Act IV

Stephanie E.M. Coleman, The Bard Brawl
The feature logo for The Comedy of Errors is brought to you by Mezari designer Stephanie E.M. Coleman. We think it’s pretty rad. Check out her event this Thursday in Montreal.

Bard Brawl co-creators Eric Jean and Daniel J. Rowe welcome you all to Act IV of  The Comedy of Errors

Listen to the Bard Brawl podcast.

 

Reading this week is Gage K. Diabo who is joined in the brawl by Brooke W. Deer, “The Golden Nugget.”

Let’s talk cash money..

The setting for the Comedy of Error – the city of Ephesus – was an ancient trading city whose power rested on the power of its merchant ships. In this way it’s pretty similar to England in the 17th century. It’s also very similar to some other Mediterranean settings like Venice where a certain merchant ends up indebted to Shylock for a pound of flesh.

Some of these mercantile themes crop up even in a early play like Comedy of Errors.

What’s the setup?

Egeon, father of Antipholus of Ephesus and Syracuse, was found trespassing in the city while searching for his lost son(s). The punishment for that crime is death. Egeon’s story moves the duke but he states that he cannot change the law. However, if Egeon can somehow find his son and come up with bail money then he can go free.

Antonio mentions basically the same thing  in Merchant of Venice but explains that the reason the duke cannot overrule the law when confronted by a sad story is that mercantile societies rely on the supposed impartiality of the rule of law:

The duke cannot deny the course of law.
For the commodity that strangers have
With us in Venice, if it be denied,
Will much impeach the justice of his state,
Since that the trade and profit of the city
Consisteth of all nations. (Merchant of Venice, III, iii, 26-30)

Money keeps changing hands in other way during the play. There’s the whole plot around a gold chain. The merchant keeps asking the wrong Antipholus for cash, the chain is given to the wrong one. The goldsmith needs the payment because he owes money to the merchant who is about to set off for Persia. Seeing as Antipholus doesn’t seem willing to pay, the goldsmith tries to have him arrested for not paying his debts.

The idea of bonds is paramount. It<s not just a matter of keeping one’s word and being honest. It’s also a matter of being good for it, of paying up when the time comes.

Here’s what  we chose to read for you this week.

Act IV, scene i (lines 1-84):You know since Pentecost the sum is due

Act IV, scene iii (lines 1-67): “There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me

Let us know how we did!

Here’s a link to the CBC article discussed in the pod about Indigenous authors trumping the bard in one teacher’s classroom.

And here’s a link to the Wikipedia article for Aimé Césaire’s re-write of The Tempest. (There’s a link on the Wikipedia page to an English translation of the play.)

See you next time!

Brooke Deer (and sister Jessica), brawling Comedy of Errors.

 

 


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Bard slapstick and K-town style

Kathleen Rowe

DSC_3530

The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s greatest physical farces, full of lively action, touching love stories, reconciled families and wonderful roles for both men and women.

It is also his earliest comedy.

The Shakespeare Kelowna production, which wraps Sunday, although starting slow and draggy gained energy and ended in a hilarious conclusion, which had the audience laughing and applauding.

Matt Gunn in his first acting role gave a strong performance as Antipholus of Ephesus, and he steals the show.

Craig Paynton and Alyosha Pushak are the Dromios, while Matt Gunn and Mike Minions are the Atipholi (plural of Antipholus) in Comedy of Errors. Catch it this weekend. (courtesy Shakespeare Kelowna)

*If you want to understand who everyone is in the play and wonder why there are two characters named Antipholus and two called Dromio, check out the Bard Brawl podcast on the same play.

Both of the Dromios (Craig Paynton & Alyosha Pushak) were fantastic with their over-the-top physical theatre and crazy antics giving the play the much-needed zaniness. They are the key comedic performances in the play and without a solid Dromio (or two), the play falls very flat.

Corrine J. Marks appeared late in the second act but gave a forceful portrayal as the Abbess Emelia and exuded confidence with her commanding presence. The Hallelujah Chorus was a nice touch too.

The decision from directorStephen Jefferys to use music by the Barenaked Ladies played throughout the play gave it the modern touch which was alright, but I was not too impressed with the slang and would have preferred they stick to the original language.

Mentioning Justin Trudeau?? Come on now!

I will miss the Shakespeare Kelowna offering in the vineyard in August but the RCA Mary Irwin Theatre is a cozy venue and brings the audience close to the action so you feel part of the play.

Check this one out anon.


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BB, The Comedy of Errors, Act III

The feature logo for The Comedy of Errors is brought to you by Mezari designer Stephanie E.M. Coleman. We think it’s pretty rad.

Welcome back Brawlers to Act III of  The Comedy of Errors

Listen to or download the bard brawl podcast of act III. New Soundcloud page here.

This week we talk proto-feminists, servitude and abuse. And yes, this is somehow still a comedy and this is all very funny, right?

First, we take a look at our twinned servants as they face off in a battle of words to gain access to Antipholus of Ephesus’ house. Dromio of Syracuse and his master are inside Antipholus of Ephesus’ house, but the rightful master has been locked outside while his wife thinks the wrong Antipholus is her husband.

Hilarious.

While this is happening, Antipholus of Syracuse is inside the house macking on ‘his’ wife’s sister, Luciana. She’s freaked out that he brother-in-law is creeping on her and keeps trying to get Antipholus of Syracuse to act like a proper husband. (In this case, like Antipholus of Ephesus.)

I guess it’s kind of reassuring to think that Antipholus of E. might be a pretty decent husband because Adriana deserves it. She and her sister certainly put up with a lot of crap throughout the play for the sake of these two Antipholuses. (Antipholii? Whatever.)

After being brushed off by Luciana, and being forced to play husband to Adriana, Antipholus of Syracuse again describes the city of Ephesus as some sort of dangerous magical place filled with witches and mermaids.

That’s some pretty strongly gendered language for a play in which two sets of men spend all of their time confusing the hell out of all the women around them.

So feel free to follow along!

Act III, i (31-85): “Maud, Bridget, Marian, Cicel, Gillian, Ginn!”

Act III, ii (1-69): “And may it be that you have quite forgot”

Act III, ii (116-124): “There’s none but witches do inhabit here”

Have a listen and tell us what you think of our twinned twins! Tune in next week for Act IV!

 

 


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BB, The Comedy of Errors, Act II

The feature logo for The Comedy of Errors is brought to you by Mezari designer Stephanie E.M. Coleman. We think it’s pretty rad.

Bard Brawl co-creators Eric Jean and Daniel J. Rowe welcome you all to Act II of  The Comedy of Errors

Listen to the Bard Brawl Podcast here! or Here!

 

Hey, why doesn’t this play work in film? Something to do with sweat spray from slapping the Dromios?

I have no idea. But our very own Gage posits an answer to that question. You’ll need to listen to get the skinny.

If you want to read about a stage version that managed to really make this play work, check out this review.

This week, we read the following parts from act II:

Act II, i (14-43): “There’s none but asses will be bridled so.”

Act II, i (52-80): “Why, mistress, sure my master is horn-mad.

Act II, ii (82-123): “Ay, ay, Antipholus, look strange and frown”

Feel free to follow along and delicately correct our pronunciation while giving us slightly patronising smiles from behind your Complete Works.

Oh, and just look who showed up to read with us.

Joining the Bard Brawl as a reader today is Sabrina Daley.

Also along for the ride again is Gage K. Diabo.

Because we know you’re just too shy to ask but are dying to know, here’s a famous line from this act to memorize:

“How many fond fools serve mad jealousy” – Luciana.

You’re welcome. There may be a quiz in a few weeks. Just saying.

Here’s a link to Shakespeare Kelowna,  a company that will be putting on Comedy of Errors May 17-28. If you’re in the area, you should go check it out. If you know of any other companies staging Comedy of Errors, let us know. We’d love to get the work out!

Catch us next week as we continue to get lost in the side-streets of Ephesus with our Dromios and Antopholi! (Antipholuses? Whatever.)

Stephanie E.M. Coleman, The Bard Brawl

 Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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BB, The Comedy of Errors, Act I

The feature logo for The Comedy of Errors is brought to you by Mezari designer Stephanie E.M. Coleman. We think it’s pretty rad.
Stephanie E.M. Coleman, The Bard Brawl

Welcome to Act I of  The Comedy of Errors brought to you by the Bard Brawl. And happy birthday, Will!

We think it’s your birthday, anyway. Although Google may disagree or else feels that you’re not important enough for a doodle this year. I mean, you were baptised on the 26th of April so April 23rd seems like good enough of a guess, right? It also happens to be the day you died on. Weird.

Well, we promised it, and at last we’ve delivered.

Nope, once again it’s not act V of Titus Andronicus, even though you promised you wouldn’t bring it up again.

It’s a brand new play with a brand new Bard Brawl format. Instead of reading out each act of the play in its entirety, we’ve picked out some of our favourite bits. Kind of like a sports highlight reel but unlike this shameful display, or this one, there are no losers and the commentators don’t speak in those awful sports jock radio voices.

In between these speeches, which will be read by a revolving cast of Brawlers, our Bardic talking heads will try to point out what we think is interesting, noteworthy or just plan awesome about each act.

So grab a listen, subscribe and tell us what you think as we go pound for pound with the birthday boy!

Download or listen to the podcast here or subscribe on iTunes.

 

Welcome reader Gage K. Diabo for the Comedy of Errors.

 Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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