By Claire Martin of The Denver Post. Review was featured online and in the newspaper print edition on 10/24/14. Read the Review
Monday, September 22, 2014
Review: “Shakespeare to the Death” dark, with moments of black comedy
* * * ½ stars (Out of 4)
The gifted cast present famous (and not so famous) death scenes by tackling the material head-on. Don’t expect a reprise of “To the Letter,” which exploited the comic possibilities of the letters upon which so many Shakespearean plots revolve.
There are moments of black comedy, and a running gag involves updating a cumulative body count. But the excerpts from dramas stay true to the originals.
So the scene of Cordelia’s death in “King Lear” is raw with grief, as Randy Diamon finds the stricken father inside Lear’s majesty and madness. Desdemona’s death (“Othello”) disturbingly invokes domestic abuse.
There are flashes of grim humor in the death scene from “Romeo and Juliet” — not the famous one, but a sword fight between the Montague and Capulet gangs, dispatching unnamed extras.
Director Roger Winn, who also directed “To the Letter,” chose the death scenes for novelty, with a view to showcasing “some of the more creative ways the Bard disposed of some of his characters.”
That makes the pie scene from “Titus Andronicus” practically mandatory. “Titus,” a disaster of continuity, shines in the bizarre ways that characters are maimed or injured, with ajust-deserts scene that combines murder, cannibalism and vicious wit.
One exception to all this morbidity: The excerpt from “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Yes, there is a death (Pyramus) in that brief play-within-a-play dependably popular at the annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare festival.
The Spark company totally nails it, interpreting the fumbling itinerate actors as scene-stealing buffoons, victims of stage fright, or bored drunkards. Doe-eyed Sidney Morss makes the most of her improbable part as the Wall that stands between lovers Thisbe (Sam Reiter) and Pyramus (Paul Backer).
All this takes place right at the knees of the front row. At one point, Gracen Porreca (whose repertoire of British accents is stellar) only needs to step back a foot to take an empty seat in the front row. (There are only about 30 seats, arranged in two narrow rows of 15 chairs.)
Taking advantage of this intimacy, director Winn offers audience members a chance to juggle the order of the death scenes by moving magnetized play titles on a board. I’m guessing that “Midsummer” or “Titus Andronicus” usually find their way to the bottom, leaving audiences with a chuckle instead of the despair that ends the “Lear” and “Hamlet” excerpts.
“Shakespeare to the Death” is lively enough to serve as date night fare, and substantial enough to please die-hard fans who’ll also appreciate the bawdy humor that insinuates itself into even inappropriate moments.
Claire Martin: 303-954-1477, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/byclairemartin
SHAKESPEARE TO THE DEATH | 3.5 stars Scenes from nine Shakespeare plays, directed by Roger Winn. Featuring Paul Backer, Randy Diamon, Aaron Lede, Sidney Morss, Anne Myers, Gracen Porreca, Krista Rayne Reckner, Sam Reiter, Charis Beth Swartley and Melissa Valdez.
Reviews for Three Sisters
Reviews for Dangerous Liaisons!
Great notices from David Marlowe – Out Front Colorado. Dangerous Liaisons Is a Bold Yet Intimate Evening according to He Said/She Said This staging enhances the intimacy of the play, and subtly pushes the audience toward an interesting sort of voyeurism. There is the obvious voyeurism of watching a sexually-charged story that features nudity, but there is a more complex voyeurism of seeing difficult things, but not being able to look away because it is right there – you feel a part of the scene. said Craig Williamson – North Denver Tribune And Michael Mulhern – BroadwayWorld.com said it was full of Sex, drugs, deceit…and delicious dialogue!
Plus the Dangerous Liaisons cast sat down with Eden Lane on InFocus. Watch it here!
Plus additional features about Spark Theater and the Denver Theater Scene
When Did Live Theater Get So Small? – March 27th
In Colorado, an unexpected arts building boom – April 9th
SparkStudio: Theater is back on Broadway – February 25th
Meet Denver’s New Spark Theater – March 7th
For press inquiries, please contact: info@SparkTheater.org