Sunday, July 19, 2015

Apocrypha Now!

Shakespeare NW boldly goes
by Christopher Key

One of the best things about summer Shakespeare festivals is that they occasionally throw caution to the winds and stage something other than the standard canon.  Trey Hatch, the Skagit River Shakespeare Festival’s bull goose loony, has resurrected a possibly apocryphal Bard play called The Two Noble Kinsmen and it’s a delight.

True Bardaholics take peculiar pleasure in arguing over who wrote what and when.  For anyone who gets off on such minutiae, scholars now generally agree that Two Noble Kinsmen was written by Bill along with collaborator John Fletcher, but it’s rarely performed and thereby lies it’s charm.

Loosely based on Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, it reinforces the perception that Bill never wrote anything original if he could appropriate it from someone else.  What a grand theatrical tradition was thus established.  Hatch told me that there may be a special circle in hell reserved for those who perpetuate such theatrical shenanigans.  I hope it’s a comfortable one because anyone seeing this confection will probably join him.

For those familiar with the canon, The Two Noble Kinsmen seems like a mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It.  Bill was an honest thief and often stole from himself when nothing else presented itself.  You’ll recognize Theseus and Hippolyta from the former and the bucolic ambiance of the latter.

Photo credit - Mary Mae Hardt

James Brown and Danny Herter play the title roles with a rollicking enthusiasm that draws laughter from the audience like Limbaugh draws laughter from liberals.  They are what would be described in current vernacular as “frenemies.”  The two cousins get along like Lysander and Demetrius until they both notice the luscious Emilia, Hippolyta’s sister.  Once that happens, they get along like Romeo and Tybalt.

Photo credit - Mary Mae Hardt

They get thrown into jail for somewhat obscure reasons and thereby come to the notice of the jailer’s daughter.  She falls in love with both of them and drives herself batty trying to choose.  Lydia Randall owns the role like Warren Buffett owns everything else.  Her ascent into madness is a thing of beauty and Randall knows from crazy.

Photo credit - Mary Mae Hardt

The aforementioned Emilia is played by Katherine Fisher and there is no doubt about why she is fought over.

John Robertson is perfectly pompous as the Duke of Athens, sort of like a Greek Donald Trump.  Carolyn Travis is his Hippolyta and her praises have already been sung.

Photo credit - Mary Mae Hardt

One of the traditions that has followed Shakespeare Northwest since its inception is the presence of David Cox.  He only gets minimal stage time as the Athenian general Pirithous, but his encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespeare shines through.

One performance to watch for is that of Elizabeth Lundquist as Schoolmistress Geralda.  She’s delightfully demented as she tries to impose order on chaos.

Tess Nakaishi, Chauncey Drummond, Glenn Nelson Bristow, Tyler Aldridge, Jordan Neyens, David Breuer, John Metcalf and Jessie Spangler make up the supporting cast and deserve more credit that I have space and time for.  Suffice it to say that they meet, and exceed, the expectations for a Shakespeare Northwest performance.

The Two Noble Kinsmen plays in repertory with Romeo and Juliet through August 15 at the Blackrock Amphitheatre in the wide-spot on the road known as Rexville.  It’s somewhere in Skagit County and you may need to engage GPS.  It’s totally worth finding.

Tickets are available via the Shakespeare Northwest website or at the door.  For the masochists in the audience, there is an Ironman competition on August 1 that lets you see both plays along with the Shakespeare Northwest travelling show.  If you survive, you get a T-shirt and the admiration of Bardaholics everywhere.  Consult the site for dates and times of performances.

If you have issues with incontinence brought on by hysterical laughter, bring Depends®.

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