Q. What do the following words have in common?
Cold-blooded, assassination, bloodstained, torture, accused, premeditated, critic, grovel, swagger, excitement, lackluster, puking, amazement, arouse and gossip.
A. They were all invented by Shakespeare. This is a partial list of words and phrases he coined that are still in use today. 400+ years ago and the guy is still relevant.
I had a horrid day and just wanted to go home, crawl under the floorboards and die, but I had a ticket to see a production of As You Like It and didn’t want to eat the $18, so off I went. Walking down 36th Street, I was thinking that the last thing I needed was three hours of Shakespeare in a small, off, off, way off, Broadway theater being presented by a neophyte company.
I walked into a nondescript light manufacturing building off of 9th Avenue and took the elevator to the third floor. The doors opened into a small, almost bare performance space. Three rows of folding chairs on a riser. Low ceiling. Actors mulling about. And then that thing happened. That thing you can’t chase or anticipate. The thing that sneaks up on you and knocks you flat when you’re not looking.
The Happy Few Theater Company, in their inaugural production, with a small budget and an overabundance of creativity, put on a gutsy, highly enjoyable As You Like It. What a relief! Each actor adroitly handled multiple roles (which, out of necessity, included cross-dressing and gender-swapping) and live musical accompaniment was provided by the cast, most of whom were accomplished musicians. As if wrangling Shakespearean dialogue for multiple characters weren’t difficult enough. In addition to co-directing, Ellen Adair made for a particularly effective Rosalind. Real tears when called for, which never fails to pull me in. The production was supplemented with effective, well-placed video clips, including an hilarious wrestling match between Charles the Wrestler and Orlando that’s played out as a WWE arena extravaganza.
It’s a new company but it’s not amateur hour. They are all masters of their craft. I’ve always been too consumed with fear to chase the things that really matter me. When I see an acting troupe like this, I can’t help but wonder what’s burning inside them that makes them persevere, despite the long odds. They’re hot.
There were seven actors and 16 people in the opening-night audience. This blog is just a blip. They’re not going to realize a swell in attendance because of this post. But they deserve it. I wish I were a wizard. I’d wave my wand, sparks, smoke, wind, presto. A full house.
This was posted outside the elevator:
On the other end of the spectrum (and by that I mean $$$$, not talent), Bryan Cranston gives a transformative performance as Lyndon Johnson in All The Way.
An edge I have over the rest of the audience is that I never saw Breaking Bad, so I wasn’t saddled with the weight of Walter White pressing down on me. I’ve read some chat-room comments about how the play is little more than an expensive history lesson, but I found it absolutely riveting and didn’t feel its 3:00 running time. I love political theater, so this played into my interests. They had me at y’all.