Saturday’s matinee efficiency of “Two Noble Kinsmen” gave the traditional tragicomedy a post-apocalyptic spin. The Stanford Shakespeare Firm’s (StanShakes) is a student-run repertory theater firm that performs artistic variations of Shakespeare’s classical works. They alter the classical settings and script content material to use to up to date social points.
As a Shakespeare theater lover and enthusiastic supporter of Stanford’s theater neighborhood on campus, I used to be keen with anticipation to attend the StanShakes present. Crew members outdid themselves with the present’s design from the costumes, lighting and set. The present had each cause to succeed underneath the umbrella of scholar theater.
When producing any Shakespeare play — particularly one embellished with a lot comedic potential — the director should maintain a constant imaginative and prescient of the play and have a deep understanding of Shakespeare’s textual content. The director helps actors translate the advanced Shakespearean language for the viewers’s understanding.
This time, although, I left the theater with combined emotions. Oftentimes, nice traces had been run over by lead actors’ clumsy interpretations of the textual content and scenes suffered from poor blocking. I didn’t take away the identical which means, amusement or basic enjoyment I usually do from StanShakes exhibits. I left with extra questions concerning the directorial imaginative and prescient.
The Jacobean tragicomedy, initially printed in 1634, was written by way of a collaboration by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher. In Act I of the play, the noble kinsmen Arcite (Varun Madan ’26) and Palamon (Ryan Dukes ’26) are jailed collectively and fall in love with Emilia (Katie Dimock ’25).
“This present highlights two concepts that we hardly ever get in Shakespeare,” mentioned the present’s director Lexi Linker ’23 within the present’s program.
“One: the world is made livable and exquisite by the efforts of those that make it that manner — efforts which are fueled by selfless and limitless love for these round them. Two: evil and good should not static qualities about us, however knowledgeable by the alternatives, huge and small, we make about find out how to have interaction with the world and those that inhabit it with us.”
The dichotomy between good and evil was salient in Act II, when Emilia can’t determine between the 2 noble kinsmen, so they’re pressured to battle. The stage fight within the combat scene was not robust, and the pretend weapons bending after “blows” didn’t assist. At occasions, I felt as if the comedy overshadowed the extra severe moments within the play’s textual content. Even so, most jokes made by major characters fell flat with the viewers and elicited only some laughs.
This did present a possibility for supporting forged members to shine. Meredith Gavin ’26, who performed the jailer’s Daughter, gave lovely monologues grounded in her pure expertise and nuanced understanding of the position. Gavin’s robust voice and delicate method to the character drew consideration constantly. Finn Paisley ’25, who carried out because the Schoolmaster, demonstrated comedic mastery with an infectious power that had the viewers roaring with laughter.
From armor made out of automobile plates to an intimate set adorned with leafy vegetation, rope and ribbons, StanShakes efficiently transported the viewers into this post-apocalyptic world. Colourful lighting was additionally expertly utilized to each darken and lighten the temper in scenes. The intentional costume design added an attention-grabbing layer to the character’s personalities. Many characters, equivalent to Emilia and Theseus, wore army costumes and heavy black boots to point their larger standing within the futuristic world.
“By framing Arcite and Palamon’s journey in a post-apocalyptic world, we envision seeing these characters, and people round them, preventing to construct a world that’s simply and type, even when the one they at present inhabit shouldn’t be,” mentioned StanShakes on their web site.
At a number of factors, although, I discovered myself questioning the reasoning behind this selection of setting, as I felt it didn’t add a lot depth to the textual content. There have been moments through which the post-apocalyptic world misplaced relevance to the normal textual content.
The directional intent of the present was most current on the opening, when voiceovers described an apocalyptic virus epidemic. There was no different world-building all through the play. The sound was sometimes overpowering, taking the viewers out of the play’s world. As somebody who has attended StanShakes’ 2022 season productions of “King Lear” and “As You Like”, this manufacturing was not as robust.
Nonetheless, I used to be impressed with the utilization of house on this manufacturing. The Elliot Program Middle, subsequent to Lake Lagunita, acted as a black field theater in its immersive expertise of the manufacturing. As a result of shut nature of the house, the viewers was wrapped into the post-apocalyptic world together with the actors. Our seats had been only some ft from the set; actors entered from either side of the viewers.
General, this efficiency hit the theatrical mark however didn’t exceed expectations. I’m each and curious to see how the corporate approaches its spring quarter manufacturing of “A lot Ado About Nothing” directed by Riley Plaut Deweese ’25.
Editor’s Word: This text is a overview and contains subjective ideas, opinions and critiques.