The Magnus Effect- Greenfield Collective

Melissa is a white cis woman, a new play enthusiast, a feminist. She craves theatre that connects urgent ideas to human stories. She’s wary of hopeful things.

Espie is a director and producer coming to terms with wanting to change the world.  

 

Espie

Let’s do this jawn

 

Melissa

Yeah! Okay, so what was in your pockets?

 

Espie

Mental health is a topic that I am super invested in – I’m actually developing a show centered around mental health right now.  I don’t know if that primed me to be more critical of the show or not, but I was certainly very excited to see it! How about you?

 

Melissa

I don’t know much about mental health, though of course my life has been affected by loved ones’ issues with it. Mostly I went because I’m familiar with most of the artists involved.

 

Espie

I knew a lot of the artists also.  I ended up actually subbing in to usher the night I went.

 

Melissa

Yeah, there was some front of house confusion when I went too–not that that’s a reflection on the production, but it contributed to the DIY feel of the whole thing.

Espie

Makes sense, though every time I’ve seen a show at Vox it definitely had a DIY feeling around it.  It’s a crazy little space.

 

Melissa

Yeah it definitely is! I think they made great use of it. That stage was economical but clean. Sara Outing made limited design capabilities work well for the production. We went a lot of different places, and through several states of reality, and it was done very smoothly and simply. One IKEA table, some folding chairs, and very strategic props.

 

Espie

I agree! I thought the set design was so simple and intelligent.  It was lovely how much you tell about the characters from so little – the four stack-able boxes to indicate Amy’s space were so telling.

 

Melissa

I loved those boxes! They were so specific. And the chairs being pushed together to become different furniture? It was a simple and theatrical solution to challenging conditions. I also loved the blanket unfurling to spread leaves and take us outside.

 

Espie

That was a really beautiful little bit of magic, though I wasn’t completely sold on the reasoning behind all of the movement around that moment.  

 

Melissa

Yeah, I think it was a beautiful theatrical moment, but I didn’t understand the significance of the blanket. And in general, the movement sequences felt kind of tertiary to the text. This play had one foot so firmly grounded in a “realistic” play that the movement sequences kind of felt like a different piece sometimes, to me.

 

Espie

I agree. There also was already so much going on to signify the inner life of the character that the movement didn’t feel necessary. When Randall was playing the guitar (also, I thought Richard Chan’s performance was so endearing!), I was so on board with everyone dancing with once another, but when they broke into the more choreographed movement, I found myself checking out until the guitar broke.

 

Melissa

I just wasn’t sure what that particular choreographed moment was supposed to be. Randall’s simultaneous bliss and turmoil over playing the guitar? Richard Chan’s performance as Randall was totally committed and endearing, which even further confused for me the need for the movement. Overall, I think that type of performance was consistent for many of the performances, particularly Amanda Jill Robinson’s performance as Amy. Each actor was so earnestly committed to their role. I could see they each wanted to craft a specific, likeable person.

 

Espie

I agree!  I think Hannah did a great job creating such distinct characters.

 

Melissa

Yeah each character had a very distinctive voice.

 

Espie

Anxiety can show itself in so many different ways and by having 5 different depictions of it, I felt like it gave a lot of people a chance to identify with their own experiences with anxiety.

 

Melissa

Did you feel like each depiction was accurate? I think that’s a really interesting point, that there was room for the audience to fit themselves in. Myself, I sometimes felt like some of the characters–particularly Amy and Randall–teetered a little into cartoonishness with their particular disorders (OCD and germaphobia respectively). But I wonder if that was in order to allow people who might not be familiar with those disorders to access the characters (a la commonly seen “tropes”) and suck them in to discover more specific thoughts, like a trojan horse of mental illness stereotypes.

 

Espie

I definitely felt that at times, but I didn’t mind, possibly in part due to the commitment of the actors. There was a moment during the meeting at Amy’s house when Hedda (Zoe Richards)  put the tape recorder on top of one of the stacking boxes (I really love those boxes), and the expression of distress that fell of Amy’s face was so honest that I had completely bought into the character.

 

Melissa

Yeah I saw that too. It was really specific and impressive. What did you think of the writing outside of character?

 

Espie

So, I’ve struggled a lot with this particular criticism because I don’t know how relevant it is, but, I really struggled with the unifying theme being flying. On the one hand, I thought it was a great vehicle for talking about anxiety, but it’s also an experience that’s only available to those of a higher income bracket, and leaving out those who don’t make enough money to fly excludes the part of the population were mental health is already not widely accepted and treatment is more difficult to attain.

 

Melissa

That’s a really great point. I hadn’t thought about that. It seemed like, with the exception of Drake, each of those characters was able to handle the financial cost of flying.

 

Espie

Yeah, that’s a sense that I got as well.  

 

Melissa

I think that The Greenfield Collective was trying to raise awareness–I thought it was great that they had materials from Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health available at the bar when you came in–but you’re right, I think this was an oversight. An unintentional one, but a significant one.

 

Espie

I didn’t know they had materials available, that’s awesome!

 

Melissa

My biggest questions were about how quickly everyone bonded together. In every scene, the characters hurt each other somehow, yet somehow scriptually they became closer . This was a particular problem for me at the end. (Spoiler Alert). I really didn’t believe that Randall would come back, after a breakdown and a betrayal on that scale. I loved Amy becoming the emotional glue of the group, but it felt like the damage ran too deep.

 

Espie

Also, I was incredibly impressed at Hedda drunk-planning that group.

 

Melissa

I also had questions about Drake’s role in the group, and his eventual catharsis. Why was apologizing to a man that verbally abused him the form his healing took?

 

Espie

Yeah, I didn’t necessarily believe that moment. I kept expecting Drake (David Pica) to really let his anger loose as well.  I felt like it was foreshadowed in the script and it didn’t go as far as I wanted.

 

Melissa

Yeah! I totally agree! Everyone else had a meltdown, but Drake never got that. It was a tightly plotted script–so tightly plotted that I think we missed a few steps.

 

Espie

The tightly plotted statement is such a great point. And yeah, I really wanted him to spill his coffee on Hedda’s crotch during their confrontation. Did you have any thoughts on the sound design/music?

 

Melissa

I thought it was fine? I guess? The music was cute. It reminded me of an indie movie. I didn’t really understand why in Randall’s guitar scene, the music playing in the music sequence wasn’t his own.

 

Espie

It was mad indie.  I agree.  I did enjoy how hopeful the music was though.  It conveyed a “light at the end of the tunnel” feeling for me.

 

Melissa

Which I appreciated, but again, I’m not sure if it was earned, because of how little time we spent with the characters without them being shitty to each other.

 

Espie

That’s true.  I interpreted the music as a gift to everyone in the audience dealing with anxiety. Not necessarily a direct correlation to the script itself.

 

Melissa

That’s beautiful. I would never have thought that.

 

Espie

It gave me a lot of warm fuzzy feels. The airport announcements between every scene change, though, got a bit tiresome for me.

 

Melissa

I wished they were more connected to the script. Maybe they were? I honestly started tuning them out.

 

Espie

I did the same thing. I think it was a nice concept to have the announcements serve as a reminder of this eventual goal, but it could’ve been accomplished with three of them.

 

Melissa

I could also have done without each character’s literal baggage. It was a convenient way to take us into each character’s house, but it was a bit on the nose as a metaphor.

 

Espie

I didn’t mind that as much.  I did find it odd – during the first scene – when Hedda gave Drake the replacement pants from the suitcase.  I didn’t know if we were supposed to believe that the suitcase was functioning as a chest of drawers or if this character kept a suitcase full of pants in her living room.

 

Melisssa

That’s a good point. I think what I learned about myself watching this piece is that I’m a cynical sonofabitch. I think this piece was earnest and made with love and care, and for some reason I could feel myself pushing against that. It was hard for me to believe things would be okay.

 

Espie

I was so happy that the piece ended on hope.  It ‘s an important thing to tell anyone struggling with anxiety.

 

Melissa

And I think that’s really valuable. Structurally I don’t know if we earned it, but in terms of intent I think it’s really valuable.

 

Espie

Agreed.

 

Melissa

Do you have any parting thoughts?

 

Espie

While I had my criticisms, I really appreciate that this piece was made.  I enjoyed the earnestness of everyone involved. You?

 

Melissa

I feel the same. I think the play could have used more development, but the performances were so committed and the whole production was so well-meant, I think it was a success.
photo by Dave Sarrafian

Advertisements

Richard III- Mechanical Theater

Cecilia is a director and writer in Philadelphia.

 

So! What’s in my pockets? I love Shakespeare, the way you love an on-again-off-again lover or a temperamental pet cat, which is to say that about thirty percent of the time he makes me really mad. I have seen Richard III a whole bunch of times. It’s a show I struggle with—I think it has some great characters and Richard’s villainy is kind of delicious and fun to indulge in, but I think his unabashed evilness sometimes gets a little too mustache-twirly and repetitive and I lose interest.

 

There are many interesting, praiseworthy things going on in Mechanical Theater’s production now running in Laurel Hill Cemetery, directed by Josh Hitchens and starring Ryan Walter. I came to the show last Friday night looking to learn something new about the show, to see it thrown into a fresh light, and there were definitely moments that were successful on that front, including a bold ending that I’m still wrapping my mind around. But ultimately I found myself wishing that these moments were united by a stronger overall concept and a clear argument for why this play still matters.

 

I had never been to Laurel Hill Cemetery before last week. It is, like, overwhelmingly gorgeous, and I was so happy to be spending my evening there. The show itself took place pretty deep into the cemetery and the walk to the space on a rather warm summer night made me feel open to the experience of watching the show in a way I wasn’t expecting. It made me so joyful.

 

At first, the cemetery seemed like a natural choice to stage a show like Richard III—one of the first scenes in the play features a funeral procession, and murder runs rampant through the plot—but I felt like the atmosphere could have been used a little more effectively. The performance space was clear of gravestones, and the performers never walked among them. In fact, there were a few graves right in front of the playing space which felt like a barrier between the audience and the performers. I found myself disengaging from the action because of the graves rather than connecting to the atmosphere, and when, at a climactic moment in the show, the actors tried to elicit a vocal audience reaction, it seemed like the rest of the audience felt a little disconnected too. A huge mausoleum was used for entrances and exits, sometimes for ghostly effect and sometimes to evoke a funereal atmosphere, but sometimes just for quick changes.

 

The design of the piece was really minimal (No designer was credited ~editor). There was some recorded music at the top of the show and at the climactic end of act three. The costumes were simple, used mainly to distinguish between characters (almost every actor in the cast of six played at least two parts). Up until the end of the show, when the sun set, the show employed only natural light; for the last few scenes, some small flashlights were used really effectively to highlight the actors faces. I appreciated the simple aesthetic, but I wish that the design provided more footholds into the story that Hitchens and the cast were telling. Richard III is a complicated play with a ton of characters, and the action moves quickly from the Tower of London to the court to the battlefield. Some stronger design choices to indicate place, class, and time period would have helped clarify some of the action, I think.

 

The actors all played the text effectively and clearly. They used wireless microphones, which I wish they had done without—they made their voices sound grainy and there would be some feedback that made it hard to understand the text. At one point, an actor’s mic went out entirely for a speech and I was still able to hear from where I was. Throughout much of the play, which, to be fair, does have really high emotional stakes and heavy drama, the actors played their anger by shouting. The yelling in the microphones really turned me off, I found it hard to settle into what the actors were saying.

 

The show was dramatically cut so that it ran at a tight 90 minutes or so, with no intermission. I was really, really impressed by the way the cast drove through the text, and kept the pace of the show flying. Dragged out, self-indulgent Shakespeare is one of my least favorite things. However, I think that the pace was so steady and so quick throughout that I really didn’t get a sense of what Hitchens wanted to emphasize in the action. Almost everything was given the same weight, and it was hard to know the moments that were important to grasp onto. The play details Richard’s plotting and the carrying out of the murder of his enemies, but the plot flew by so quickly that I didn’t find myself affected by these murders as they flew by. Some of the cuts made to the text also really muddied my understanding of characters’ development. A scene that features Richard’s former ally Buckingham being led to execution is absent, as are the scenes featuring Richard’s young nephews who he later sends to the Tower once he gains the crown.

 

There were strong moments, however—moments that enlivened the play in ways I had never seen. There is a scene featuring a guileless Mayor of London (Loretta Vasile) totally buying all the pretty obvious bullshit that Richard and Buckingham (Megan Edelman) are selling her. The Mayor’s gullible acceptance of the villains’ bold lies immediately brought to my mind a certain Republican presidential candidate—the way his falsehoods are so huge, so obvious, and so clear, yet they hardly slowly him down. Richard’s encounter with his mother, the Duchess of York, was also a scene that took me by surprise—up until that point, I felt that Walter was playing Richard’s delicious villainy, but wasn’t showing us many cracks in his clever facade. Seeing his vulnerability at his mother’s disavowal finally gave me a sense of what made the bloody king tick. The show’s final moments were unlike any I’d seen in previous productions of the play. I won’t go into too much detail about it, because spoilers, but it took the play out of the realm of English political drama and into the hauntings, psychological or spiritual, of Richard’s tortured, guilty mind.

 

And who was the villainous king haunted by? In this version, a lot of ladies. The piece featured a several women playing male roles as women. The title “Lord” given to the characters in Shakespeare’s text was changed to “Lady” in this iteration. That choice raised a lot of questions for me about where female power rested in this show—it was nice to see a version of the text where women are successful politically not just because of who they’re married to. It was also great to see women go toe-to-toe with the titular anti-hero, since the play features so many of the female characters tricked and driven into tragedy by him. I was especially moved by Neena Boyle’s Queen Elizabeth—her movement from haughty assuredness to devastation to rage was powerful, and the scene that featured her, Queen Margaret (Rachel Gluck), and Richard’s mother, the Duchess of York (Loretta Vasile) mourning their losses and expressing their rage was brutal and effective.
Overall, there were standout moments throughout the production, several strong performances, and Laurel Hill Cemetery is a gorgeous place to see a show. There were moments that surprised me and moved me. I only wish the show had been held together with a stronger unified concept, and that the boldness of its strongest moments was present throughout all of its scenes. I found myself leaning back in the grass and listening; I wanted the show to make me lean forward and stare.

I Am Not My Motherland- Orbiter 3

Jane is a multidisciplinary theater maker

Connie works as an actor in Philadelphia

Jane

So, we have to say first off that both of us saw a first preview of this show. It was a very small house, and I know that a few changes were made after the preview. What else was in your pockets?

 

Connie

I know and am friendly with several of the Orbiters so I definitely walked in ready to buy what was being sold. But I didn’t really know anything about the play at all.

 

Jane

I’m a big fan of Orbiter, I think what they do is really important. I went in there rooting for it. So this was a new play. What did you think of the script?

 

Connie

It took a lot of time for me to unpack after I saw the show. I think it was really ambitious in scope. It felt like a really big puzzle, and I love puzzles so I dug that.

 

Jane

I agree with that. I like that I had to listen really hard. The impending big mistake was very discreetly revealed a few scenes ahead of the bomb being dropped, and it caused a lot of tension. And there was also tension in the play itself’s not being a reliable narrator. At first, the wife was killed by a drunk driver, later she had an accident. And of course the two accounts of what happened between their grandparents. I like that that unreliable narrator sometimes had the voice of a newscaster. It made clear that this was a world where truth was relative and narrative mattered more.

 

Connie

Absolutely. And I think the actors and the director handled the places where narratives overlap and differ really well. There was a lot of nuance going on that could easily have been rolled right past.

 

Jane

I totally agree. And I also like the way this script avoided being preachy or sanctimonious

 

Connie

The one thing I kept coming back to again and again with the script is how it felt like a movie, or at least, very much inspired by film. There were moments, particularly when the perspective would shift very quickly from one character to another in a scene, that I felt the script was trying to make me look at one very specific person at each moment. That kind of specificity of gaze is something you can do really easily in film. I mean, in film, who the audience looks at is decided by anyone other than the audience. But in live theatre you can’t make the audience do that. I saw tactics in the direction used to encourage it, like the slow-mo talking and sound that felt like we were doing a close up on a character’s face. But again, it’s live and I can ultimately look wherever I want.

 

Jane

Did you feel like that was successful or did you feel like it was trying to be a movie and failing?

 

Connie

I thought it was compelling to see film devices used on stage and a really interesting way to test the boundaries of what is ‘theatrical’. So it was successful because I can’t stop thinking about whether it worked or not.

 

Jane

I did love that the space was theatrical though.

 

Connie

I agree. I definitely felt like it was a play that was testing out these cinematic devices. What did you think of the direction? Movement was a big part of the show.

 

Jane

I think the directing was fantastic, and I think Rebecca Wright is underrated. She’s great at what she does, but I feel like she doesn’t get the credit she deserves. And I was completely in love with the movement. I think it is so, so hard for a repeated movement device in a basically narrative play to be novel and effective, and this one was. They were weird, compelling movements and the actors executed them with precision every time.

 

Connie

It was specific and compelling, yes

 

Jane

And I liked that it was a coercive movement that touched the stomach, heart and mouth. That’s a great detail that ties back into the story. I also think the blocking was really dynamic and this play offers a real challenge in terms of keeping the space full and the actors moving. Rebecca Wright just kept making very bold choices, like the chair far downstage at the start of the show. What an odd, excellent choice, getting down in that corner like that!

 

Connie

Absolutely. I do think I missed actor’s faces more than was intended but I think that’s more on the physical space than the blocking choices.Ultimately, it didn’t take anything away for me, but I was aware of how often I missed faces.

 

Jane

Huh, I don’t know why I don’t remember having that experience, we were sitting in the same section. I think the only time that the blocking didn’t work for me was when Irving was on the bed and had to kind of half sit half lay down for a long period. That felt clunky.

 

Connie

And that’s a moment I don’t remember!

 

Jane

Two people two plays.

 

Connie

I even feel like my own experience has changed from last night to today after thinking about it.

 

Jane

It was complex and well executed enough that I could relax and let the production engage me.

 

Connie

I do want to throw it out there that I didn’t have a large emotional connection to the characters.

 

Jane

I agree with that. I really felt like Emily Acker was struggling with the challenge of writing female characters who could be taken seriously within this genre. She seemed afraid to give them too much fallibility because they represented so much.

 

Connie

What was missing was if they cared about each other. The connection between them was so professional that the vulnerability that comes with trying to connect with someone on another level was missing.

 

Jane

That is a great point. There was never any hope that they would connect, so I wasn’t invested in whether they did or didn’t.

 

Connie

And with that in the mind the only moment that still sits strangely for me was the moment near the end when they’re fighting. The scene was so full emotionally but the play hadn’t been leading up to that.

 

Jane

That’s also a great point. I think that Brian Anthony Williams was so alive and so deeply invested in his character’s relatively minimal stakes that by comparison the women who were meant to represent the central conflict seemed a little cold.

 

Connie

An interesting point! I think it comes back to your observation of fallibility in the women.  

 

Jane

So do you think that that was in the writing, or the performances?

 

Connie

Honestly, I’m not entirely sure, but I also don’t mind not knowing. It continues to raise questions for me about women being allowed to express emotion and how that changes how people connect to them in both reality and theatre.

 

Jane

Yes, this brought up a lot of those thoughts for me. I want to be really happy about these two characters who represent all that I ask for in female characters, but I can’t say I connected to them personally. Weirdly I did connect to Irving. But I also found the grandparents very thinly drawn, although that might be because they were memories and not people.

 

Connie

That’s where the intricacy catches me a little. I’m still processing the impact of their story on the contemporary storyline. I didn’t realize at first that when the story is being told from the perspective of the grandmother that the soldier may *not* be Rosel’s grandfather.

 

Jane

Well, the projection supports that it is. And the projections are the most authoritative element in the play.

 

Connie

I think that when it goes back to the grandmother’s perspective, there’s a chance that the man is just another soldier and not necessarily the same man we see in other ‘flashbacks.’ So this past storyline because possibly two past storylines.

 

Jane

And possibly two renderings of the same, unknowable story. Dr. Leroy points out that it doesn’t matter. “It may not have been your grandfather, but the point is that it could have been”

 

Connie

Yeah, I definitely missed that when I saw it. And that was tough because it became (spoiler alert) this weird moment of thinking “Am I being asked to doubt whether this woman was sexually assaulted?” That was one moment where the doubling didn’t quite get through 100% successfully for me.

 

Jane

I totally, totally agree. I had the exact same reaction and it pissed me off. I do not like to see sexual assault on stage unless it is very necessary, totally earned and the play obviously supports the victim. And regardless, I would prefer if I knew it was coming. I certainly didn’t need that much of it to be on stage. An implication would have been enough. I knew where it was going.

 

Connie

Oh yeah. I was such a moment of personal dread for me and we were sitting right in front of it. I felt something that had nothing to do with the play and everything to do with being reminded that being a woman is the worst.

 

Jane

I completely agree. I was nowhere near the play or its narrative in that moment.

 

Connie

What did you think of the rest of the design elements?

 

Jane

I love spare sets, and I thought Masha Tsimring’s was beautiful. It supported the narrative and the style of the production. Unfortunately, that tree going up bummed me out a little because it was a very cool element, but the stuttering, noisy tech pointed clearly to what it was supposed to be like (smooth, antiseptic.)

 

Connie

I agree. I liked the set, loved the tree.

 

Jane

So when we entered the theater, you were wary of the cage. What did you end up thinking about it?

 

Connie

I’m glad no one was locked in it. I liked what it provided in terms of blocking and differentiating between the two timelines. And no one was locked in it.

 

Jane

I am also happy that no one was locked in it.

 

Connie

Jamie Grace-Duff’s costuming also fit really nicely without making them disappear into the white set.

 

Jane

Yes, I think the khaki linen jackets were brilliant! And I really liked the motion that Hannah Gold made as she transitioned from doctor to soldier with the lapels it made the change in one elegant distinction.

 

Connie

Yes! So small and subtle but it made such an impact.

 

Jane

The same with Amina’s hijab. And the change between characters was so fluid. Lots of precision from this cast, which was supported by the costume design.

Connie

Yes!! And Irving’s costumes were just ‘every man’ which made it all that easier to connect to him

 

Jane

Did you notice that his hospital gown was, like a patchwork of all hospital gown fabrics ever?

I have no idea what that meant, but I loved it

 

Connie

I didn’t notice that! I just felt so connected to him because how he dressed was how my Dad dressed so I felt really protective of him.

 

Jane

Isn’t it weird how connected we feel to this misogynist asshole? Brian Anthony Williams reminded me of every great actress I’ve ever seen get into a “girlfriend” part and just bring it to life. Do you know what I mean? This wasn’t his play, and he didn’t overshadow the others, but he just lived ALL the way into it. You really cared that they killed him. The first time I heard them mix up the kidneys, I really gasped.

 

Connie

Yes! That is perfectly put! There was an understanding that he was going to be the way in for the audience emotionally because most of the audience probably won’t be doctors. And so we could understand the trust he had to put into the people who were going to operate on him, which is really crazy to think about. And then, through him, we got to see how the two women (who this play is really about) dealt with that trust.

 

Jane

Great point. Do you want to say more about acting?

 

Connie

I really liked Isabella Sazak who played Dr. Leroy. She was grounded, with this laser focus. She’s what they mean they say “still waters run deep”.

 

Jane

Yeah, I think so, too. That “yup yup” was an amazing character detail- a good collaboration in writing and interpretation between Sazak and Emily Acker. But do you think she contributed to the problem of not being able to connect emotionally to the character?

 

Connie

Maybe? I think she showed Dr. Leroy to be very guarded so that intrigued me even though I was never allowed in on what was going on emotionally.

 

Jane

Yes, I think the guardedness was perfect, but we needed more cracks to get to that final moment. I honestly don’t know if that was the performance, the play or the directing. Or that it was a preview.

 

Connie

Yeah, not even a preview. It was a pay-what-you-can so that’s a lot for everyone in the production to work through.

 

Jane

How about Hannah Gold? I really liked the idea of a character who was unapologetic about her apologeticness. That was refreshing. She wasn’t really interested in changing. And I think it was helpful that Hannah Gold played in opposition to that rather than into it. It would have been irritating if she had played it very feminine or bubbly.

 

Connie

Yeah it was the most no-nonsense niceness. I believed that she wanted to connect with her patients and that she was also a really good doctor.

 

Jane

I did, too, although I also think Rosel’s unwillingness to confront difficult things came through. What most impressed me from these actresses was a high level of skill and precision. They were really really professional and really on point– especially considering that this was the first preview. They made what must have been a lot of really hard work invisible.

 

Jane

I want to say that I loved the sound by Adriano Shaplin. It is so hard to really score a show with sounds. I think the result here was excellent, it felt like a great podcast or npr documentary, where you barely notice the sounds are bringing you through the story.

 

Connie

I liked the sound as well but I feel like I was very aware of it. It was another element that felt very cinematic for me.

 

Jane

Oh I thought it was so seamless!

 

Connie

I think that’s why I became so aware of it, to be fair. It’s not that it didn’t fit or work, it just kept popping up for me intellectually since I was really intrigued by the use of cinematic elements in live theatre

 

Jane

Sure, that makes sense. So with that in mind, what did you think about light from Masha Tsmiring?

 

Connie

This is a sort of ‘in my pocket’-ish thing. When I see a white stage I get really excited for the lights because this is basically a blank canvas. That expectation may have affected my appreciation of the lights because I really wanted a lot of color.

 

Jane

Ha! I have the opposite prejudice, I hate a lot of color on stage.

 

Connie

I think the lights did great service to the play and the production however. It just took me a long time to detangle what I wanted from the lights vs what I got.

 

Jane

I liked the antiseptic, industrial feeling of them, particularly the light from the X ray illuminator. And I appreciated the contrasting “hollywood” effect of the old cans in that cage.

 

Connie

There was one moment where the illuminator was positioned right at the edge of the playing space and the audience was lit that stuck with me. It was a moment where I felt included but not in a breaking the 4th wall way.

 

Jane

This is a good new play. This is not the kind that I personally get all excited about but it’s unquestionably  a good new play.

 

Connie

I agree. It’s not usually my thing but I can’t stop thinking about it.

 

Jane

And I think it’s worth noting that the type of play I don’t get excited about is the intellectual exploration of ideas, but if I am going to see an exploration of ideas, I’d much rather see Emily Acker’s version of it than, for example,  Ayed Ahktars. I prefer the depth and care that she brings to the kind of essay-shoved-in-a-character’s mouth that you get from a lot of male playwrights doing idea plays. This is a very good version of a thing I don’t usually care for.

 

Connie

Which I think speaks to the skill of everyone involved.

 

Jane

If nothing else, I’d recommend this play for the care and skill of it. This was a loved production, and it is hard not to feel well treated as an audience member when a production is loved. So often I go to the theater and feel like someone is saying “YOU HAVE TO EAT THIS, I MADE IT.”

 

Connie

Or an assumption that, of course you’ll like this. How could you not like this? Don’t you see how much money went into this? This is the opposite of that. Handmade theatre, made in Philly with love.

 

Jane

And set in Philly. I saw you in there, Schuykill River. Anything else you want to say about this piece?

 

Connie

Go see it, please!

 

Jane

Yeah, see it.

 

The Yellow Wallpaper- Physick House

Hattie is a mixed-race business lady. She needs art and intersectional feminism to survive her day job.

Goldie is a director in Philadelphia.

Goldie

Let’s start with what’s in our pockets. I have to say that from where I was sitting I could not see the performer at all if she sat down, so I was experiencing this mostly as an audio drama. Also, I am a huge fan of Jennifer Summerfield’s, I’ll see anything with her in it, and also I already loved this text. So I was going in set up to like it. What was in your pockets?

Hattie

I also already really loved this text. I first read it in high school and it stayed with me. And I am a friend and fan of Josh Hitchens’. I’m not sure that liking the text necessarily set me up for loving the show. I think if anything, there was a bigger chance that I’d be upset if it wasn’t treated properly.

Goldie

Makes sense.

Hattie

Because it’s such a surgical dismantling of all sorts of patriarchy. So if the play didn’t feel that way I might have been upset. I’m curious why the writing was meaningful to you and thus the play.

Goldie

For a couple of reasons. First of all, because I find any testimony about the dismissal of women’s experience to be comforting and validating. Secondly, because I’m in awe of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ability to both realize and articulate that in a climate where it was taken for fact and never called out, and thirdly because we are in this cultural moment which is about telling people what they are and not listening to them as a means of oppression and it feels good having that legitimized right now. You?

Hattie

Very similar. I think I’ll always have this special place in my heart for work that tells stories that are incredibly specific but serve really perfectly as allegories for bigger things. In this case, you’ve got ostensibly one woman’s descent into madness at the hands of one man, but it’s built out in a way that makes you feel like in every room in every house there are women slowly losing their minds at the hands of many men. And that’s important to me, because that actually HAS been part of my experience as a woman

Goldie

Amen to that.

Hattie

And I hope that when someone else bears witness to a work that evokes that universal they realize that maybe lots of other people are experiencing this.

Goldie

I think I’m just giddy whenever I see myself reflected in something? Like you said, it’s a very specific experience that speaks to a very general one. If The Yellow Wallpaper were about a man, it would be required reading. It is that kind of universal. So yeah, I lose my shit every time  a story is like “Oh, hey, you are also a person.”

Hattie

It came straight for me, this play. I really do want to congratulate them on not losing the universal feel. It would have been very easy for this to become a mouth frothing “look at the crazy lady!” performance. I  think lesser artists might have indulged in that (apologies to lesser artists.)

Goldie

Never apologize to lesser artists.

Hattie

Very well. Do better, lesser artists.

Goldie

You were saying how you felt about the treatment of the text?

Hattie

I was pretty darn impressed. On a technical level, you’ve made a first person journal-style piece of prose into a solo show, and it stayed dynamic. That I credit to Josh Hitchens because of all his past experience transforming prose into solo pieces.

Goldie

I agree, although I could have done with more cuts. I think it could have been a little more streamlined.

Hattie

Yes. It’s kind of difficult for me to remember all the distinct wallpaper description moments. They’re critical, and beautifully written and pretty impressively delivered but there may have been one or two too many.

Goldie

I think so, too, and I could have lost a little description of the house. It reads well, but that’s a lot on an actress to deliver, especially with a lot of specific, outdated language. Besides, it’s more about how she feels about them than what the house is specifically like

Hattie

The only reason I’d be sad to see those go is because she’s so lovely in those moments and there’s this terrible wistfulness. She’s a person, she has things that she hopes for.

Goldie

Oh, I see what you’re saying. That’s a very good point. They do kind of ground her.

Hattie

You’re left thinking, “Damn, just let her sleep in the room downstairs. It sounds very nice!” It was funny, too, this play. The whole thing has this wonderful macabre humour and they didn’t lose it.

Goldie

You’re right. It was just the right tone for it. And the house was part of that. Something about it’s being a tourist attraction makes it self referential. It’s a space in which to reflect on history, not live it.

Hattie

Question for you on period dramas: do they give audience members a safe distance from upsetting things? Was there anyone in that room who walked out saying, “Oh sure, life for the ladies was bad in the 18whatsits but TODAYYYY no one is locked in an attic.” And is that person just a lost cause anyway?

Goldie

I guess it depends who the show is for. I like to think that it’s for me, as things so rarely are. I like the feeling of my foremothers reaching across time being like, yes, this shit is fucked up, I get it, you’re not alone. A feeling I imagine dudes get when they see Macbeth or whatever. (And by whatever, I mean anything.) It feels good to have a legacy to reflect on, which they get all the time. And if it’s not for me, I don’t really care if they have to sit there being like “what’s the point of this, why is this important?”

Hattie

I like this a lot. I think I am so used to feeling alienated that even when I see a thing that is for me, and I viscerally enjoy that communion, I start worrying about the people who won’t get it. The people things are normally for. Just…. otherhood problems.

Goldie

Worrying about dudes.

Hattie

And ladies.

Goldie

What ladies?

Hattie

Ladies who “don’t need feminism”…you know.   

Goldie

Oh! Those ladies.

Hattie

Yep! The happy non-others. Wherever they may be. Did Josh Hitchens pick the play? I just realized I assumed he adapted it, but I don’t actually know. To your earlier point it just feels so timely. And I’ve been feeling a little let down by the art I’ve consumed lately and whose voice is actually coming out on stage. This show was a nice antidote.

Goldie

Yes. Do you want to talk about the performance? Jennifer Summerfield is really compelling, although I only saw her when she stood in various beautiful pools of light.

Hattie

So very compelling. I had the benefit of her full face which was excellent. There were moments I’d like to talk about lighting-wise that were ambitious and great tonally but maybe weren’t all they could have been, but I’m imagining that was budget and space related too. Her principal spot was sitting in a chair (invisible to you), lit by the most amazing contemporary orb lamp which she “adjusted.”

Goldie

Oh man, I never saw the lamp

Hattie

Hmm… I’m betting more than a few experienced this as an audio play. The lamp was very cool. And very large. But the light was direct and really harsh, so the moment she turned her head away to scan the room it cast an intense shadow and you basically lost her face, which was great for mood but maybe a bit too binary? The best effect was when she opened the window and the “moon” shone through. I assume that’s when you saw her?

Goldie

I did, and then later when she was by the door and a square of light was on her. They were pretty photographs.

Hattie

Also favorite moment, when her unseen husband faints and she walks right over his prone body multiple freaking times.

Goldie

What did you think of her costume?

Hattie

That costume was suitably infantilizing. What did you think?

Goldie

There was something not quite right about it to me, and I couldn’t figure it out.

Hattie

I agree! What was it?

Goldie

I think that it was too angular rather than soft? Like there was a lot of starch in the collar and the front had boxy panels. I want to feel like she’s all wrapped up in gauze, not straightjacketed?

Hattie

It walked the line between baby dress and straight jacket to me. Mostly it just looked very uncomfortable to the modern eye. Did we rave about Jennifer Summerfield enough? I’m genuinely asking.

Goldie

Let’s do some more. She is very physically restrained, but all of her movements have purpose. She doesn’t do anything superfluous.

Hattie

Everything felt discovered. Which is impressive, given that she only had herself to rely on and feed back on. That was so much work and I felt like she made it look so easy

Goldie

She was very comfortable in the text.

Hattie

Very. The character just felt so present and real through her.

Goldie

She has that kind of timeless face and bearing, which help. I wish I had seen more of it. For obvious reasons I wish she hadn’t been sitting as much, or that there had been a way to raise her on a platform. The way the chairs were placed, with no height difference and no staggering, I didn’t see the “set.” Did you find it effective?

Hattie

It was very simple and I think it totally worked. It was a chair, a side table, the lamp on the table. The window was the other thing she interacted with as mentioned. Jennifer Summerfield spent most of the time sitting, but she did interact with those few items quite a bit. Memorably in her last bout of madness she starts trying to move the bed which has been mentioned many times and has built up a sinister character of its own. Of course, there was no bed, but she used the back of the chair instead and it worked. It was a good moment of physicality. I liked that I just imagined the bed instead of seeing it.

Goldie

Oh, yes, I did see that and thought it was a good choice! Is there anything else that you want to mention?

Hattie

Final words: it fed my soul to hear and see it. I applaud the work that went into it and all the brains that made it.

Goldie

Agree. Also, I love small, site-specific work. More of that please. There is so much freedom in small.

Hattie

Moar!

Goldie

Good, now that we have expressed what we want in theatre Dionysus will grant it.

Hattie

High fives!

Goldie

High fives, god of wine!

 

The Jaws Project- Plays & Players

 

Melissa is a white cis woman, a new play enthusiast, a feminist. She craves theatre that connects urgent ideas to human stories. She’s really needed to have fun lately.

Nan is an actor/maker, an intersectional feminist, queer, and a unstoppable ditherer.

 

Melissa: Let’s lay out what was in our pockets/what we came in. I went with my boyfriend; we were on a date, and I’d had a couple of drinks, so I was already in a great mood. I’m also big fans of Sam Henderson and Mary Tuomanen’s work. I am not particularly familiar with Jaws though; I saw it for the first time a year ago.

 

Nan: I haven’t seen Jaws at all, actually. But it didn’t matter seeing the show, I think. I came with my theater coworkers, where we have all worked with Mary. And we were a little late so we missed the first five minutes or so.

 

Melissa: Yeah I think knowing the movie allows you to access some in jokes, but the story itself isn’t necessarily about the movie

 

Nan: I feel like the movie is actually more of a jumping off point to discuss the relationship that the play seems to focus on.

 

Melissa: It’s really more of a love story.

 

Nan: I thought it would be a lot more “devised”, actually, but I think someone who didn’t know would not have realized.

 

Melissa: Yeah!

 

Nan: It feels very cohesive and like there is a solid script underneath with some flexibility in the transitions.

 

Melissa: It was also just really focused. Sometimes with devised pieces, I feel like there are extraneous ideas and moments, but this felt really tight and streamlined.

 

Nan: It did. I also think “devised” is often a headline for something that is not just a play, but also has movement and less linear and plot based themes? But the through line was very concise. I was curious whether “devised” for them meant more that it was born of group improv, or what the case was.

 

Melissa: I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I have much to say about the piece thematically. For me it was a love letter to that moment, super funny with just enough poignancy to keep the humor fresh, but now that I’m looking back to talk more seriously about it I don’t have a ton to say. Which I think is okay.

 

Nan: Yeah, I agree. It really didn’t have any frills on.

 

Melissa: It was quick and delightful and didn’t ask you to put more into it than there needed to be.

 

Nan: Which was actually very refreshing. I wasn’t expecting that at all, knowing it was devised! I was planning on having to get more personally invested in the way you usually do with devised work. And in terms of not asking you to put much into it, the actors were also very generous with the audience.

 

Melissa: Yeah, the space was really intimate, which can often feel awkward, but the audience participation came very naturally. I was seated at the table where Robert DaPonte and Mary Tuomanen had much of their tavern courtship and I never felt uncomfortable.

 

Nan: The whole cast had such lovely ease. I was seated in the back row and it was just as accessible from there.

 

Melissa: What did you think of each of them as performers?

 

Nan: Well they all navigated really simple sets and prop-costumes really gracefully, which I enjoyed watching.

 

Melissa: I agree. I never felt the need for more tech. Each of them as able to define space and character really simply.

 

Nan: I think, from the way it sounded, that they do have a script, but it felt incredibly easy and natural from their mouths. I especially liked Sam Henderson’s navigation of a bunch of different characters.

 

Melissa: Yes! I found each of his characters complete and charming, with just an accessory to define them.

 

Nan: He really filled out the cast with just strong and simple choices!

 

Melissa: There were times I had trouble understanding his busy body neighbor character Barbara, but his Hippie Man was hilarious.

 

Nan: Yeah, I didn’t mind though.

 

Melissa: And I’m a sucker for him playing bedraggled patriarchs. He played an earnest but morose father in Emma Goidel’s Local Girls at Azuka and he was great.

 

Nan: He did a fantastic job of narrating/officiating without it being obvious or tired.

 

Melissa: Absolutely. He really guided us through this world.

 

Nan: It would have been easy to get a little lost in the nature of the setting without that I think. I also loved his interrupting Spielberg deus ex machina moments.

 

Melissa: Yeah, if we’re talking about a script, those sounded like they were written by Henderson, based on the plays of his I’ve heard. Understated and funny and poetic and bleak. Moving on to DaPonte, I had never seen his work before but I really enjoyed him.

 

Nan: DaPonte’s energy was intense! There was no AC the night I went and he was sweating so much, but he never got blustery or unclear. He also managed to be kind of a jerk in a way that didn’t bother me in the way that the “underdog young white dude” tends to these days.

 

Melissa: Yeah, he was really earnest. But also at the end, when we realize who the salty New Englander is to Marjorie (played by Tuomanen), his obtuseness wasn’t forgiven.

 

Nan: Yeah. There was no apology there at all, that I heard at least.

 

Melissa: Like he was well meaning but his fucking up had a consequence. Much as the film did to the town. Blazed in meaning well but really fucking up these people’s lives for a time before dissipating into fame.

 

Nan: Yeah. I’m glad he didn’t get off the hook. On the other hand, I feel like dealing with those consequences could have potentially been fodder for continuing on with the play? And I would have liked it to be longer, I definitely wanted to hear more.

 

Melissa: I did wish I had seen more of the consequences for the town besides parking. But at the same time I’m not sure how much longer the show could have sustained itself. That relationship and that town are summer flings. They flare up and they’re gone. If it had felt any longer, I might have felt like it was bloated or meandering.

 

Nan: That’s true. I guess it may just be what it needs to be as a one-act. It ran about an hour, I think?

 

Melissa: Yeah about an hour. I kind of wonder what they cut, since we’ve both remarked on how streamlined the piece was.

Nan: I’m also curious if there’s a next step for the project and if so what the goal is. I don’t know where you would add and have it not become an overdone rom com. It was so nice that it never dragged at all.

 

Melissa: I wonder if it just exists in this self contained form. Maybe they’ll tour it or make adjustments, but like you said. It’s hard for me to see how they’d expand on it. We haven’t talk about Tuomanen’s performance yet. Mary is so reliably fabulous to me that this was no exception. And the tightness of the piece to me is probably due in large part to her prodigious skill as a deviser.

 

Nan: I’m not super familiar with her work, but as ever, I think her greatest strength is being incredibly effortless in her honesty but also letting everyone in the house into her personal sphere.

 

Melissa: I totally agree.

 

Nan: Her dialect also sounded awesome. Didn’t distract from her performance at all

 

Melissa: I think she’s from New England isn’t she? Or maybe I made that up.

 

Nan: She definitely sounded like she could be. I feel like it’s rare to see such good acting in devised work. mostly because the point of the work is not about the acting but about the intentions of the piece? But it was really like watching a really well rehearsed straight play.

 

Melissa: I think that’s a great way to put it.

 

Nan: I’m curious what the intentions were in creating the piece. They succeeded so well in creating a love story that is also about the making of Jaws and the community it disrupted. I wonder if that was the intention. It seems much more straightforward than what most people want to do when they go to devise a piece.

 

Melissa: I think the relationship is supposed to act as a microcosm of that, which I think was successful. But you’re right, this wasn’t at all what I’ve come to expect from devised pieces. I also want to know what, if anything, they wanted us to take away. I didn’t think much about the piece after I saw it but I really enjoyed seeing it.

 

Nan: Yeah. It didn’t seem like it had any great moral to it.

 

Melissa: Or any real questions. It was more of a portrait than anything. Which is totally fine. Frankly I’ve been in need of some purely fun theatre.

 

Nan: It’s true. I guess the sensationalizing effect of film and TV is starting to seep into theatre, in a way. It was nice to just watch a well made play with really solid actors.

Melissa: Absolutely.

 

Nan: I think the most unusual thing for me is that they did so much with so little, and it worked so well. It’s really reaffirming to watch work that is just about the work.

 

Melissa: I agree. I also just loved the generosity, as you said, of it. I was totally caught up in their world. I felt welcomed into it and completely immersed in it. It was like spending an evening with friends.

 

Nan: Yeah. I definitely left feeling very warm. And it was lovely to watch a piece that was so at face value.

 

Melissa: Completely unpretentious.

 

Nan: it was very refreshing in that way.

 

 

Bad Hamlet- Headlong Dance Theater

Sally is a feminist android of color who is attempting to discover what it means to be human, kind of like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation but for Philadelphia theatre reviews.

Espie is a director and producer coming to terms with wanting to change the world.  Theatre reviews might be a nice way to start.


Tracker is a man who is naturally biased against the experiential knowledge of anyone who isn’t a cisgender man.

(Note: Due to the nature of this performance, you may have seen an entirely different performance of Bad Hamlet. The role assignments and events described refer to the performance on July 2nd, 2016. Consider this as you read our review.)

 

Sally: What was in our pockets for this performance? What did you all know going in?

Espie: I’ve never been terribly invested in Shakespeare and this makes me feel a little self conscious going to any Shakespeare performance, like I’m the odd theatre professional out.  I also tend to check out of shows that are longer than 90 minutes pretty easily.  

Sally: I had read the presenters’ –Joseph Ahmed and Lesley Berkowitz-Zak–notes on the event invitation and was familiar with Lesley’s Reject Theatre Project Coriolanus in which she also utilized the Shakespeare Roulette format, but I didn’t get the chance to catch that production.

(In Shakespeare Roulette, the performers choose the role in which they will perform at random from a hat just before the performance begins.)

Sally: And, yes, and this was a bit lengthy. I was curious if they would cut it or the comedic sensibility of the “badness” would keep it moving pretty quickly. It was certainly a Hamlet-length.

Espie: I came into the performance knowing that there would be booze and that they would be performing the First Quarto, which I was excited about because I had seen a pretty rough production of it done at my college when I was a freshman.  I was looking forward to seeing another take on that text.  I was also looking forward to booze.  I love drinking games, it’s a wonderfully adult way to be silly.

(The First Quarto is a text of Shakespeare’s Hamlet about which many theories exist–it is similar to the First Folio and other editions of Hamlet but many of the well-known soliloquies, scenes, and lines inexplicably differ in structure and language. It may have been a transcript from a minor player’s perspective, or a reconstruction from the memory of a witness to a performance, or an early discarded draft.)

Tracker: I didn’t know much of what was going to happen, going into this. I barely knew that a First Quarto existed. But I generally like the people who are involved so I was ready to have a fun time.

Sally: I was also excited to see Hannah Van Sciver, Amanda Robinson, and Lesley do some Shakespeare.

Tracker: I did not think through what it meant that it was a drinking game and was not set up to expect the power-ups/microtransactions of the play or event.

(The performance of Bad Hamlet includes a menu of “power-ups” in which audience members can pay for the performers to do silly accents, dance for the entirety of a scene, take a shot, etc.)

Sally: And also, maybe this speaks to how informal this event was, but I definitely was on my phone during the show reading about the first quarto, because I wanted to know why it was different. Initially Joseph Ahmed, the director, had mentioned that he would be cutting in to offer some insight about the script, but other than holding up the large pad of what the well-known speech, soliloquy or line was that First Quarto butchered I didn’t quite get that information from him. Not like I got it from Wikipedia. Like why “Polonius” was called “Corambis” in this script was something they joked about at the top of the show but didn’t offer an explanation for. Smartphone during show = Bad Audience for Bad Hamlet, sorry friends.

Espie: I wish in the pre-show it had been established that we could get up during the piece to buy drinks (and maybe even power ups?) while the piece was happening.  I thought the environment (including props and costumes) was well constructed, wonderfully haphazard, casual, and goofy but because the Shakespeare is such a formal sounding text I felt like needed to be a very proper audience member.  I had finished beer during PHIT’s opening performance and then felt weird about getting another until maybe 20 minutes or so into the show.

Sally: I loved the Headlong garden space, but the lighting was limited. At one point I had thought, “oh, is this a major difference in the first quarto Hamlet that they visit the battlements again to see the Ghost?” But they were using flashlights to read their scripts. Also, I wish I had discreetly BYOB’ed, I’m not much of a beer or wine drinker and I’m not great with drinking games, so having a drink I liked on hand might have helped with the game aspect. I guess to that extent I was grateful that no one was hounding me to drink or drink more, as is drinking game protocol, because I personally can’t really keep up with competitive drinking.

Espie: I really liked Joseph’s use of that large pad – it felt so snarky! – and I enjoyed watching the actors reactions to ridiculous things happening in the text, but I definitely expected Joseph to pop up more often or for him to vocally explain some of the differences.  There were definitely moments when I felt like I was on the outskirts of an inside joke.

Tracker: On the overall, I definitely had fun.

Espie: I agree. I definitely had a blast, but I found myself wondering why they had chosen this particular text as opposed to do a reading of a bad movie sequel.  

Sally: Shiiiit I would be down for a reading of a bad movie sequel.

Tracker: One of the questions I ultimately had was “Why is this being performed for a public audience?” because it also felt like a get-together for friends to have fun. And a meta-question behind it: Do I even need to question the motivations of this event if I’m having this much fun? I guess the related side-question was “Who is the audience for this?”

Espie: It felt like more improv than theatre, but that was probably also brought out because PHIT were our guest performers.  Also, PHIT’s intro was really great.

Tracker: Yeah! The inclusion of other community members to intro the show was a nice touch. But also because of the ever-changing nature of the production (roulette casting, different warmup act), I feel more at a loss how to “Review” this piece. My only conclusions can be: content/trigger warning alcohol, you will likely have lots of fun.

Sally: Yes. It’s like writing a review of a party I attended. This is weird.

Tracker: All the actors are very talented, know their way around a Shakespeare script. (Even one presented as “Bad.”)

Espie: I thought Michael Gamache’s Hamlet was damn hilarious.  He did a great job using the power-ups to highlight the ridiculousness of the text – like when he had to dance through his entire soliloquy.  

Tracker: He has a great voice for it too. And when people tried to gracefully fuck up that was fun to watch.

Sally: And I also enjoyed Jenna Kuerzi’s performance as Claudius/Hamlet’s Ghost (who dgaf).

Espie: Did you guys enjoy the power-ups?

Tracker: I thought they were an interesting idea, an audience-participation style of throwing a wrench into the works to influence the environment. But, because of the length of the play along with an intermission break, their effect was greatly reduced by the second half.

Sally: You had pointed out something after I hadn’t realized, that there were power-ups that were not used, like the trampoline.

(One of the power-up options is that a performer must jump on a trampoline for the entirety of a scene.)

I saw that trampoline during the show and forgot about it. But like a gun prop, it’s weird to have a trampoline on stage and never use it.

Espie: Maybe Joseph could’ve matched the amount that were bought in the second act that way there were more or maybe throw in some of the ones that weren’t bought. I think because there were less in the second act and they seemed to be a selling point of the piece, I found myself a lot less interested.

Tracker: One of the drinking rules was “Drink when someone says something grossly sexist.” The modifier interested me. That left a lot up to an audience member to decide when to apply that rule.

Sally: How gross is gross? Also isn’t all of Shakespeare grossly sexist?

Tracker: But it did squarely place the show within our contemporary society’s mores.

Espie: That rule did make me wonder if they were trying to comment on anything larger.

Tracker: Yes, also that.

Sally: And another drinking game rule was “Drink when someone says something sexy.” Like … what I find sexy? What if I’m a fetishist for Shakespeare’s language? Don’t see this play if Shakespeare’s early drafts turn you on, you will die of alcohol poisoning. (Sorry folks: Bad Joke for Bad Hamlet.)

Espie: I would have liked to have seen the elements of structure – power-ups, staged moments, drinking rules – more, well, structured.  I thought the chaos was fantastic, but it might’ve been further highlighted by really hammering out what the framework was.  The opening moment with everything walking down the steps was so good and I wanted a little bit more of that.

Sally: Yes, that was hilarious. I felt that the dumb show/players’ performance had some of that structure, but I also read–during the show, again I’m sorry to be a terrible audience member/friend–that this portion of the First Quarto is largely the same as the First Folio possibly due to a cast member with a supporting role was in this scene, and lends evidence to the theory that the First Quarto is a transcript from his perspective.

Espie: It would’ve been cool and informative to have had facts like that posted throughout the garden. There was a decent amount of blank wall space, though I don’t know if they had the budget for a ton of poster board.

Sally: “Shakespeare Facts for Nyeeeeeerrrrrrds” Concluding thoughts?

Tracker: Concluding thoughts: I had a ton of fun, and if that’s all it was supposed to be, A+. If it wanted to raise any questions or issues about performance or Shakespeare or theatre or [blank], that was muddled. Because it felt like maybe they were reaching for Something Else but didn’t necessarily commit to any specific ideas.

Sally: Having recently seen some of these performers’/collaborators’ work in Rejects’ SHREW I think I for some reason also wanted to project some artists’ commentary onto their performance of Shakespeare, but altogether this might have just been a comedic event for funzies. With booze. Also I wish more shows utilized Hannah Van Sciver dancing for the entirety of a scene. So make that happen, Philly theatre.

Espie: I think that format has a lot of potential for use in texts that aren’t just the First Quarto which is exciting and I want to see this group do a reading of Troll 2.

Sally: INDEGOGO FOR STAGED READING SERIES OF BAD MOVIE SEQUEL SCRIPTS.

Espie: And I agree with Tracker. I really enjoyed myself, but was definitely left wondering if they were trying to comment on anything beyond just having a good time.

Sally: We should have been drinking during this review.

Tracker: Next time, hip flask.