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Shake in fear at “ShakesFear”

| Wednesday, October 29, 2014

shakesfeare-WEBKeri O'Mara

Dim the lights. Find your seat — no, wait — actually, do that before you cut the lights and save yourself … a trip to the emergency room. Now, feel your bones quake in your skin and behold (cue flash of lightning) the literary trailer for the Not-So-Royal-Shakespeare-Company’s upcoming performance of (ominous chords tip-toeing on anticipation) “ShakesFear!” (Insert maniacal laugh echo).

If you identify with notable Shakespearean groupies who restlessly sit through the Bard’s classically demanding soliloquies all for a climatic five minutes of bloody swordplay, this theatrical collage of poetic violence will satisfy your palate for spook-and-slasher horror this Hallows’ Eve.

Think of it as a “best-of” highlights reel featuring some of the playwright’s creepiest, goriest and bloodiest moments from a laundry list of iconic plays you shiver to recall from the days of high school English classes past. However, this time around the action unfolds from center stage at Washington Hall with enough intensity and passion to pass for an exceptional summer blockbuster — in the fall. And no, I’m not exaggerating. It’s really that cool, and if you don’t believe me, I challenge you to practice your right as a patron of the arts, you baboon.

My journalistic privileges served me well, as I was fortunate to peep in on a full run-through of the show with the help of NSR. What’s delightful about the Not-So-Royal Company is every member’s dedication and reverence to the material they perform; you sense they want to do justice to each line, enfold individual emotion and cradle meaning for the value of the mosaic window they deliver their audiences. They are all there because they love to play and create with Bill and his timeless characters.

Shrouded in mystery and grisly revenge, “ShakesFear” is brilliantly narrated by the Porter infamous for his appearance in “The Scottish Play” — I’m not taking any chances. As the master of ceremonies (mostly funerals in this case) and the keeper at Hell Gate, we see him welcome in every scene — an ingenious concept as he is the embodiment of a much-needed comic relief during one of Bill’s most disturbing tragedies.

The show-within-a-show lineup is what you would anticipate for a production punned “ShakesFear,” though the format never feels worn or effete thanks to a consistent guessing game of, “Which show will be next” or, “Which scene will they use?” If you are unfamiliar with the dark side of the Bard, here’s a pint-sized preview of what awaits your pleasure.

“Titus Andronicus”

An earlier, more experimentally shocking piece of Bill’s career, this tragedy is perhaps the most flagrantly grotesque. The slasher-horror flair of today’s pop culture killers is officially conceived with Titus’s dramatic proclamation of vengeance upon his daughter’s two rapists in true Shakespearean Western vogue. You would never guess the powerhouse portraying him is a first-year student. Having spoofed the tragic protagonist in high school, I was slightly terrified to recognize key lines in their authenticity. In other words, I did not chuckle when Titus presented “dinner” to his oblivious guests.

“Romeo and Juliet”

Now this is the route movie director Baz Luhrmann should have taken. Before there was “Warm Bodies,” there was a baby-faced, gun-wielding Leo DiCaprio killing himself for Claire Danes. Before that there was the regular old adaptation of star-crossed lovers — let’s just give Shakespeare the copyright to that clichéd idiom. This portrayal submerges Juliet and her Romeo (Paul Kuczynski and Devon Gonzalez) into a zombie-fied junkyard of undead love. In between the, “Call me but love’s” and, “BRAINS,” there’s enough grunts and noshing on one another to pass for horny tigers.


Sorry, no zombies, but Denmark has the next best thing: ghosts. Kudos to the director for the creepy, exorcist-style voice-over of Hamlet’s father’s ghost telling his son to seek revenge against his, “most foul and unnatural murder,” and, “let not the royal bed of Denmark be a couch for luxury and damnèd incest.” Incest! A couch! What more could you ask for this Hallows’ Eve?

“The Scottish Play”

One sentence summary: Witches round their cauldron and sneer gleefully with all the force of wickedness in piercing E flat above high C. If you don’t know what I mean by the above title, go see the show at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday or Saturday in Washington Hall. Tickets are $5 on Student Shop ND or $7 at the door.


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