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I ushered for ASP's Measure for Measure this Sunday at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center.

They've had shows there before, but each time they've chosen a different layout. This time, the audience was on opposite sides of the performance space, set up to give the vague impression of jury boxes, which worked. Otherwise, the set was a panel on the floor that included a round picture of Blind Justice (a blindfolded woman holding balance scales), and a contraption with spaced vertical ropes that could be raised/lowered by one of the doors to form the bars of a jail cell.

This production is set in the here-now, with the Duke taking his leave of absence because he's reached the end of his rope, heading for some kind of break-down (the implication of addiction, to pills, to booze, to whatever), and needs to step back for a while, which I liked better than the sometimes-used assumption that he was trying to be a puppet master for all his citizens. As the actor pointed out in the talk-back session afterward, this showed the period assumption of the state mirroring the condition of its head.

It's an intense time to see this play about law unequally applied, in the wake of the same USian problem (Ferguson, NY, so many other cases). One might have thought we'd have gotten just a little bit farther along the path towards true justice...

Oh, and the ending was interesting. The Duke has asked Isabella for her hand in marriage. The play has hinged about how this novitiate has rejected the amoral demand for carnal knowledge by Angelo, and it's unclear whether she is willing to give up her chosen path for a more legitimate offer. The play embraces that ambiguity by ending with her kneeling to pray about it, and him following suit, open to interpretation by the viewer rather than a definitive answer.

Not at all relevant to the production: ASP set up a concessions stand in the gallery opposite the main stage area, which is having an exhibit of work by Cynthia Brody, which I enjoyed seeing.

Henry VIII

Jan. 2nd, 2014 10:21 pm
magid: (Default)
Sunday I ushered for ASP's production of Shakespeare's Henry VIII. I was particularly excited about it because I've never seen it, and I've read enough about the period to be familiar with the story.

The production was (er, "is", I suppose, in the sense that it runs until Sunday (with an extra show added due to demand, surprisingly enough), but I'm unlikely to see it again) done in period costuming*, with a lot of choreographed movement, most of it dancing, some processing. As with most of their productions, it was a minimalist set: there was an elaborate painted circle on the floor, with knight and king names on it in a manuscript font, a la Round Table (all the names other than Henry's were Arthurian); the back of the stage area had irregular plinths into platforms, with a huge cross on one side, and those medieval chairs that look rather like heavy wooden criss-crossing camp chairs (I noticed that the cross was one step up from those thrones: religious authority trumping temporal, at least in this). And that was it.

* I had lots of costume envy. Some of the men's clothes, especially, looked like they'd be great today. And I didn't mind seeing so many men's legs in tights, either!

The story was oddly episodic, with one problem person until knocked down (beheaded, defrocked, divorced, whatever), then another one arising. Henry was too much a man of emotions, as always, but often seemed to play the deus ex machina of each playlet, rather than being center stage throughout. I kept wondering how Henry's later excesses would be addressed, but they were completely avoided by ending with Elizabeth's christening, allowing the priest to give a nicely prophetic speech at the end, avoiding all those later disastrous marriages which didn't even get him any heir material. The unfortunate Mary is mentioned only as her mother's daughter, so her problematic reign is ignored completely too. It left me feeling like a carefully written marketing backstory for Elizabeth, even though the earlier plots (Cardinal Woolsey, some nobles meeting unfortunate ends) had nothing to do with her. Even Anne Boleyn was portrayed as not wanting to catch the king, but unable to do anything to turn his fancy aside (not the view I've read, but hey, history is open to interpretation).

Apparently the company did much editing to get to their 2:30 show, some of which included putting a lot of minor characters onto one actor, who was jester, random nobles, and random women as the need arose. I was impressed with how well this worked, the adjustment of a scarf or a jester puppet helping. I wasn't as sure about the video projection during Catherine's death scene, more because it didn't fit with the rest of the production than anything else. All in all, I'm glad I got to see this, even having to stand for the first half.
magid: (Default)
(from an article in today's Globe)

This summer's production will be Henry V, rather than their originally scheduled Macbeth (which I'm pleased about; I've seen a bunch of Macbeths recently, and a less-performed play is good.) The powers-that-decide-such-things thought that this would be more topical, considering what's going on in the world these days.

Apparently it's being set in England in the 1930s. And Anthony Rapp has the title role.

It's running from July 19 through August 4. Last year I 'hosted' a Thursday (vegetarian/vegan) potluck on the Common, and people seemed to enjoy it... I think I'll do it again this year, with everyone here who wants to join also invited, of course. 
magid: (Default)
well, not really. there was a lot of music, though no actual songs. the 3 witches were pretty much onstage all the time, if only in one of the many niches (a cool white set that allowed many points for arrivals & departures), often beating on some percussion instrument, a drum, or a tambourine. they also used castanets, clackers, and anklets of bells. all were in fluttery yet edgy white costumes, with rather extreme white and black makeup. they also did many of the bit parts in the play.

the production was really good; quite different fom jason's (director) production last year (completely different cast & audience). interesting to see how he sees the play.
other than the witches omnipresence, it was a fairly straight performance, not set in another time/place. and i was glad prog and treacle_well (& 2 other non-lj users (yes, there still are some!) enjoyed the play as well.

as usual, i am left wondering if the witches' prognostications would've come about had he not started on his path of regicide. and wondering about lady macbeth's upbringing- he wouldn't have done it w/o her goading. and of course i find it ironic that macduff's being born in some sort of c-section situation makes him "not of woman born" ... macbeth would have a hard time these days...


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