One comedy by Shakespeare, another about him
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
The Beard of Avon in Nashua
Bawdy jokes with just enough euphemism to confuse small children run through The Beard of Avon. The jokes make Amy Freed’s modern take on who wrote Shakespeare’s plays plenty accessible to those non-Shakespeare scholars who claim a patch of grass at Greeley Park in Nashua. Squeezed in between are references to playwriting technique, as Will Shaxpere becomes a “brand.” There are points made to the argument, such as the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, having far more treacherous life experience to match Shakespeare’s stories.
What seems a simple device, borrowing Shakespeare’s name since a nobleman can’t go about penning plays, gets out of hand in farce-like fashion when Shakespeare somehow becomes a ghostwriter under his own name — which could be nom de plume. The first part as an actor he’s offered after running away from his wife in Stratford after becoming enraptured with a group of players is that of a spear shaker. Get it? He shakes a spear?
Yellow Taxi Productions used a small stage within the band shell at Greeley Park in Nashua, limited props and full period costumes for this outdoor free performance Saturday, July 26.
Gail Angellis gave a commanding performance as Queen Elizabeth. Both the queen and De Vere, played by Steve Triebes, are quicker to kill or have killed anyone who dares criticize anything they might possibly have written.
Freed has Anne Hathaway decide to go after her husband Will, who’s joined players in London after becoming enraptured by them. She disguises herself as a whore, and amazingly, Shakespeare can’t seem to discern that the working woman he’s fallen for is actually his wife. Suzanne Delle, YTP founder, plays the part with relish and it has many good lines, including, “You’ll write? I can’t read, bastard!” It’s her response to Shakespeare leaving her again, when he calls out that he’ll write — which she takes to mean letters to her, rather than scripts.
No, this is not a show that takes itself seriously, but there are layers of historic, theatrical, literary and Shakespearean references to pick out, if you are so inclined. And it’s plenty funny, if you are just looking for free entertainment.
Put your seat up close, and bring bug spray. The Beard of Avon plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, and Sunday, Aug. 3, at Greeley Park on Concord Street in Nashua. James Phillips directs. Visit www.yellowtaxiproductions.org or see 791-4558 for more.
Much Ado in Peterborough
If however, you are wont to take in a comedy allegedly by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Circle Theatre is running Much Ado About Nothing outdoors in Peterborough.
Theoretically, it’s outdoors. The rain started probably about 20 minutes or so before ACT planned to perform their version, set in a 1919 New England garden party, on Sunday, July 27. The company carried props and set pieces down the block to their back-up venue, a teen center. That created much ado while furniture was moved and the audience tried to create their own seating arrangement.
The show started only slightly late, and the smaller space made for a more intimate experience. The chaos gave the event more of that “let’s put on a show” feel and the audience pretty much couldn’t help being involved in the project.
The actors’ ability to move their production and hit the boards as soon as they were sorted echoed those traditions of traveling players. The Elizabethan tradition allows for a Shakespeare play to be picked up and put anywhere, such as the end of World War I, but also, literally picked up and moved elsewhere, as ACT did.
Peter Eisenstadter is almost a scene-stealer as Benedick. (He used to be an Equity actor.) Wendy Almeida kept up in their verbal sparring as Beatrice. Kimberly Miller makes Hero a lighthearted ingenue with enough depth to engineer a well-intentioned trick on her dear cousin Beatrice.
Constance, played by Mary Armstrong, replaces normally male Conrade, companion of sullen Don John (Evan Baker), half brother of the prince, Don Pedro (Scott Katrycz).
The cast is too large to mention everyone, but the community play was worth the drive and the well-executed scenes kept the audience smiling.
Much Ado About Nothing closes with 3 p.m. shows Saturday, Aug. 2, and Sunday, Aug. 3, at 1 Phoenix Mill Lane in Peterborough. If it’s raining, the show will probably be at 40 Grove St. Tickets only cost $5, or bring a canned food donation. Mariah Sefel directs. See www.actorscircletheatre.org or call 924-3876.
Kirstin Acton contributed to this report.