Monday, March 18, 2019

In the Forest of Arden

Ha ha ha, Spring Break, Winter Break, three day weekends--these are phrases that not freeing and leisurely when you work in certain industries; rather, they are terrifying. When you're the person working so that everyone else may take their leisure time, all you do is work during their leisure time. So . . . even though I've had things to post about (since there are an abundance of shows going on this month and I seem to be making it to them all), I just haven't done so.

So I'll go ahead and bundle Southwest Shakespeare's latest plays into one post. They ran them together, anyways, so I suppose it's fitting enough. Now, often when they do this, there is one play that stands out over the other. This time, though, I was impressed with the quality of the performances in each one. The two plays in question are The Taming of the Shrew and As You Like It.

Probably it's easier to say that the former was the better one. But that's because it was filled with humor and laughs and to have the audience constantly responding to all of that wittiness and energy was an experience. However, the delivery in As You Like It was just as much of quality; it was just less humor (although there was still certainly some).

The Taming of the Shrew was the play I was completely unfamiliar with. I'd heard of it, of course, but not much else. Knowing that it's one of those plays that can be . . . problematic for the modern scene, I found that they did very well with it. Maybe I'm just used to viewing things in context of timelines, but I wasn't offended by this play and I even felt like much of it could have been written today (as opposed to so many of my dear Victorian novels that I love but are definitely often quite dated in certain respects). So whether this was the careful choosing of which lines to use or the delivery or just the overall strutting and direction of the play (or most likely a combination), well done to everyone involved. It was just a fun comedy, making everyone laugh at the silliness of humanity and then ultimately ponder what our statements and our actions really mean in the end.

What As You Like It did best was to create that sense of the forest of Arden. Arden is that place that is a state of mind. Given that this play used the same set (a heavy structure with a balcony and doors and stairs) as the other (since the two were running at the same time, of course), I wondered how they would create the forest. Turns out they introduced it bit by bit. As the characters spend more time in the forest and get, in a sense, mentally deeper into the forest, the entire forest overlay emerges. Wonderful there. Once more, this was one of SWS's plays to feature music throughout. And in this case, the music helped to create that sense of the forest as this single moment in time, this state of mind, that helps the characters to ponder who they are.

Pondering, pondering in the forest that is our minds. Both plays, though different, contained that sense of pondering the self. We're in this forest--who are you and who am I? Do we know or do we have yet to discover? The discovery is a journey, that is certain.

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