Thursday, May 30, 2019

Shakespeare References in Pygmalion

Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion contains a few references to Shakespeare. Henry Higgins, early in the play when he still identified as “The Note Taker,” says to Eliza Doolittle, “Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespear and Milton and The Bible” (p. 20). And, yes, that is how Shakespeare’s name is spelled in the text. Later Higgins says to Pickering, about Eliza, “This unfortunate animal has been locked up for nine years in school at our expense to teach her to speak and read the language of Shakespear and Milton” (P. 55). And still later, Higgins says to Pickering, “Lets take her to the Shakespear exhibition at Earls Court” (p. 71). And yes, “Let’s” is spelled without the apostrophe in the text.

Pygmalion was first published in 1916. The edition I read is the Penguin Books edition from 1973, which includes additional material from George Bernard Shaw from 1942.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Shakespeare References in Begin The Begin: R.E.M.’s Early Years

Yes, Shakespeare references continue to pop up in nearly every book I read. Robert Dean Lurie’s new book about the band R.E.M., Begin The Begin: R.E.M.’s Early Years, contains a few Shakespeare references. The first is a reference to Romeo And Juliet, and it comes when Lurie is mentioning other names the band considered before settling on R.E.M., names such as Slut Bank and Can Of Piss. Lurie writes, “Sometimes a rose by any other name really doesn’t smell as sweet” (p. 83). As most people seem to do, he is referring to the Q1 line of “By any other name” rather than the preferred Folio reading of “That which we call a rose/By any other word would smell as sweet.” The second reference is to Richard The Third, though really it’s Lawrence Durrell who makes the reference in The Black Book, which Lurie quotes here: “Even the ones like pale nipples, delicately freckled and melodious, are forgotten in this morning, where our one reality is the Levantine wind, musty with the smell of Arabia, stirring the bay into a muddy broth. This is the winter of our discontent” (p. 204). That last line refers to the first line of Richard The Third, “Now is the winter of our discontent.” The final reference is simply a mention of the band Trip Shakespeare (p. 228).

Begin The Begin: R.E.M.’s Early Years was published in May, 2019 through Verse Chorus Press.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Noises Off (A Noise Within’s 2019 Production) Theatre Review

Noises Off production photo by Craig Schwartz
A Noise Within’s production of Noises Off enjoyed a sold-out run last year, with audience members returning to see it two and three times. It was so popular that folks requested its return. Never one to disappoint an audience, A Noise Within has brought the production back for a limited run. So, if like me, you missed it last year, here is your chance to enjoy this absolutely delightful comedy, with the same cast and direction. I generally review only Shakespeare productions, but Noises Off contains a play within a play, and what could be more Shakespearean than that? It also contains references to both Hamlet and Richard The Third. It is a play that anyone who has ever been involved in theatre can appreciate. And for everyone else, well, there is a certain delight to be taken in watching things fall apart, don’t you find? Provided, of course, that things aren’t falling apart for us personally. And things certainly do fall apart for the characters in Noises Off.

The play is divided into three acts, and in each of those acts we see the same play from different perspectives. First, from the director’s perspective during the play’s final dress rehearsal (even if some of the actors believe it is the tech rehearsal), then from the actors’ perspective backstage, and finally from an audience’s perspective. It is an interesting effect, essentially not seeing the play from what would be our own perspective as audience members until we’d already seen it from everyone else’s perspective and become enamored of these characters. It’s good that we get a chance to see it multiple times because our own laughter sometimes drowns out certain lines and we need another chance to hear them. In fact, last night even before a single line was spoken, certain people in the audience were laughing, as if in anticipation of the lines. Clearly, they had seen the production before.

When the play begins, a housekeeper enters and answers the telephone, letting the person on the other end know that the house’s owners are away in Spain. It isn’t until we hear a voice from within the audience call out, “You leave the sardines,” that we realize this woman isn’t a somewhat batty character, but a somewhat batty actor. Well, still a character from our perspective, but you know what I mean. Lloyd, the play’s director, remains in the audience for most of this first act, and so it is from his perspective that we view the proceedings, as he tries to push these actors through the final rehearsal. When one actor looks for his motivation for a certain bit of business, the director, exasperated, says, “Why does anyone do anything?” We feel his pain, particularly when he is seated among us.

For the second act, the set has been turned around, so now we are backstage. Visible are the costume racks and props table and stage manager’s station. The production has been up for a while, and there are new troubles, leading Lloyd at one point to say, “I think this show is beyond the help of a director.” By the way, the pace of this play is fast, particularly in this second act. Its momentum is tremendous. So much is happening all at once. And everything that is established in the first act pays off beautifully in the second and third acts. For the third act, the set is turned around once again so that we in the audience are now the audience for the play within the play. (By the way, the stagehands received applause when turning the set around during the short intermission. That gives you an idea of how much the crowd loves this production.)

There is a lot of physical humor, with the slamming of doors, and entrances and exits. And, after all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Doors and sardines, getting on, getting off. The play is a fun romp. Just the sort of thing one might need in order to, say, take one’s mind off the destruction of the environment or the end of democracy. And the entire cast is fantastic. I was especially excited to see Erika Soto as Poppy, the stage manager. I fell under her spell during her work with the Independent Shakespeare Company, and her Juliet is still the best I’ve ever seen on the stage. I recently saw Jeremy Rabb give a wonderful performance as Roderigo in Othello, and here he a total delight as Frederick. But probably the best performance is given by Kasey Mahaffy as Garry. I thought he did an excellent job as Rosencrantz in last year’s production of Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, but here he is an undeniable comedic force, a whirlwind of hilarity, and an absolute joy to watch. But as I said, the entire cast is wonderful.

This production of Noises Off runs only through June 9th, so get your tickets soon. We can all use a laugh these days, and this production provides plenty of them. A Noise Within is located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena, California.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Shakespeare Reference in Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor

I walked to my local gaming store the other day to buy more dice (I always want more dice), and as it was Free Comic Book Day, I picked up a comic book too. It is issue 00 of Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor, and it contains a Shakespeare reference. The Doctor says “Something wicked this way comes.” Her next line is “Ray Bradbury, lovely man.” That seems to imply that the Doctor believes the line originated with Ray Bradbury. It did not. The line “Something wicked this way comes” is from Act IV Scene i of Macbeth: “By the pricking of my thumbs,/Something wicked this way comes.”

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor is published by Titan Comics. This issue was written by Jody Houser, with most of the art done by Giorgia Sposito. The colorist was Tracy Bailey.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Shakespeare References in Going Down: Lip Service From Great Writers

Going Down: Lip Service From Great Writers is a collection of short pieces from various authors on the subject of oral sex. Two of the pieces in this book contain Shakespeare references, and actually both references are to Hamlet. The first comes from Jadis by Ken Chowder: “On impulse Egg yanked a piece of Spanish moss from a passing tree and twirled it around Tory’s head. ‘A makeshift crown,’ he proclaimed. ‘A laurel wreath. A garland for poor drowned Ophelia’” (p. 83). By the way, I’m fairly certain it was Egg and not the tree that was doing the passing. Trees on the go! The second Hamlet reference comes from Teleny, a book attributed largely to Oscar Wilde: “‘Was it because the Almighty had fixed His canon against self-slaughter?’” (p. 102). In Act I Scene ii, Hamlet says, “Or that the Everlasting had not fixed/His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter!” Going Down: Lip Service From Great writers was published in 1998 by Chronicle Books.