A bevy of the Bard’s bawdiest bits
|(re)discover theatre presents|
|Fifty Shades of Shakespeare|
Review by Clint May
I know this is a greatest hits compendium, but—what? No Coriolanus? If you’re going to have gender bending love scenes from Shakespeare, (re)discover needs to consider looking at Act IV Scene V, on or near line 116. I’m just saying, it would go a long way towards pleasing the target audience often to be found at Mary’s Attic. Look it up.
In just around an hour, we are treated to many of the sauciest bits of Shakespeares fairly extensive collection of racy bits (look closer and it’s just everywhere in there). Héloïse Sénéchal, editor of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s edition of the Complete Works, has found over a hundred terms for “vagina” and considers Shakespeare’s works “absolutely packed with filth.” We miss it today mostly because our language and style have changed so much that the tawdry euphemisms that would have been accessible in his day seem like poetry to us. (re)discover is on a mission to ensure you don’t miss a single salacious couplet in their unconventional couplings.
Ordered loosely into the standard progression of affection—flirtation, falling, experimental, seduction, all the way to break up—the quartet of two males (Jon Matteson and Kody Walker) and two females (Jessica Shoemaker and Miriam Reuter) allow random chance to determine who plays which of 27 roles on a given night. Scenes from Macbeth are rejigged towards the orgiastic, while Midsummer Nights Dream needs no reinterpretation for its comedy of miscommunication. Throughout the eleven scenes, Romeo and Juliet’s famous balcony collusion has been interspersed as a B-story of “Falling, Falling Deep, and Falling Deeper.” Between each, they improvise some silly groaner sex jokes with the audience.
Despite the BDSM-inspired title, Fifty Shades is gentle and often grin-inducing, with a few surprising moments of tenderness. The (re)discoverians have a charming tongue-in-cheek(y) chemistry and a handle on the Shakespearean language that’s more than adequate to handle their modest goals. There’s no context provided, so if, say, you don’t know why Othello feels betrayed by Desdemona enough to strangle her, you must pay close attention to his accusations.
Mingling the high-minded with the lowbrow while running the full gamut of love’s spectrum of delights and dismays, Fifty Shades may or may not be the perfect Valentine outing (the happy ending hadn’t been invented by the 17th century). Still, if you like your sophistication with a soupçon of saucy, an hour with these four and their barmy fivesome with the Bard might just get you in the mood to—how to say this delicately— put some wood in the O.*
Fifty Shades of Shakespeare continues through February 17th at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark (map), with performances Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm. Tickets are $10, and are available through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at rediscovertheatre.com. (Running time: 60 minutes, no intermission)
*The Globe Theater was nicknamed “The Wooden O”, and any time you see “O” in Shakespeare, he’s usually making a reference to an orifice (“O, Romeo, that she were, O, that she were an open-arse and thou a popp’rin’pear.” –Romeo and Juliet). Yes, it’s a terrible double entendre and, yes, I’m sorry.
Photos by Matt Wills
behind the scenes