Review: Pacific’s Department of Theatre Arts’ Drunken Shakespeare
Actors were encircled by the audience in this unique style of story-telling. Photo Credit: Zach Withrow.
Another semester, another Shakespeare play by university students. One of the various shows by the famous playwright that you have surely seen a dozen times before. Probably pretty boring, right? Wrong. Over the past two weekends, the Pacific Department of Theatre Arts celebrated the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death with a performance of the playwright’s work like you have almost certainly never experienced before.
Directed and compiled by Professor Lisa Tromovitch, the play consisted of a compilation of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays in which the characters have had a little too much to drink. The scenes were woven together with comedic banter by the actors, who all had their fair share of ale throughout the evening— fake ale, that is. As the thespians noted, the University unfortunately would not allow the troupe to consume actual alcohol, despite their best efforts.
The play began energetically, as Ky Mazyck-Holmes and Lushan Zhang nearly came to fisticuffs in their portrayals of Sampson and Abraham, respectively, from Romeo and Juliet. The two did well to set a comedic tone for the evening, and Mazyck-Holmes continued his witty commentary throughout the performance from behind the bar that was constructed on stage.
Emcee, Maya Sritharan, then introduced herself as the hostess for the performance, and momentarily turned the spotlight on the show’s technical director, Gary Scheiding, who came out from the audience at the urging of the cast to give a speech as Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s few recurring characters, and one who also happens to drink a lot.
Sritharan then segued into another scene from Romeo and Juliet, in which Romeo (Christina Wampler) and his friends Benvolio (Becky Cooper) and Mercutio (Olivia Pecot) crash the Capulet party, getting a little too tipsy in the process. The three pals excitedly bounded across the stage and became more and more clumsy throughout the scene, as their blood-alcohol contents soared to regrettable levels.
Next was a scene from Twelfth Night, during which the sexual tension reached hilarious levels as Sir Andrew Aguecheeck (Tyler Reardon) was made a fool of by Sir Toby Belch (Luke Bolle), who urged Sir Andrew to “accost” Maria (Becky Cooper).
“Now, sir, ‘thought is free:’ I pray you, bring your hand to the buttery-bar and let it drink,” said Cooper, drawing some of the biggest laughs of the evening as she forced a confused Sir Andrew’s hands onto her breasts.
Finally, the cast portrayed scenes involving alcohol from The Tempest. Erica Magana was great in her debut performance as Ariel, and both Olivia Pecot and Becky Cooper took turns in the role of Stephano, a character who shared his alcohol with the wacky Caliban (Luke Bolle). Seeing Bolle roll around on the stage with Eric Orosco, who played Trinculo, was another noteworthy moment in the comical production.
While the structure, acting and directing of the play were very unique and entertaining, these aspects of the show were only part of what made the experience so memorable. The truly remarkable part was the fact that the audience was on the beautifully-designed stage with the actors for the entirety of the performance. As a spectator, you were not just watching the actors engage in all the fun; you basically took part in the performance.
Upon entering the Long Theatre, one of the actors would usher each audience member past the rows of empty seats, through a dark stairway, and onto the stage. Or should I say, the pub? For the stage had been completely transformed into a medieval-style tavern, complete with a bar, rows of benches and tables, and dimly-lit chandeliers made of multi-colored wine glasses. The actors would lead each audience member to his or her table, each of which featured a Shakespeare-themed title, and the actors would then ask for the spectator’s choice from a few different beverage options. The most popular selection was a root beer float, which the actors would promptly serve the guests.
Once the play began, most of the action occurred in a space between the two rows of tables, but much of the performance took place all around the onlookers, as the actors who were not starring in each scene made funny quips and catcalled from positions around the stage. All the actors did tremendously well in their roles, and being so close to their performances only increased their effectiveness.
Overall, the play was very well done; the stage construction was especially impressive, as was the costume design. If you missed out on the product of the Theatre Department’s hard work this time around, be sure to keep an eye out for their next production. If it is anything like “Drunk Shakespeare,” you will not want to miss it.
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