Getting Even With Shakespeare
nytheatre.com review by Shelley Molad
August 24, 2010
Getting Even with Shakespeare is a revenge comedy by Matt Saldarelli that follows Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Romeo, and Juliet, who gather in a New York City bar, run by Ophelia #482, to drink away their sorrows and plot revenge against the Bard, who is responsible for their tragic fates. They commiserate about their responsibility to metaphysically attend every performance around the globe that bears their names, including regional theatre, Shakespeare festivals, China, and, dare I mention—dinner theater. Their private gathering is interrupted when a lawyer and formerly unsuccessful college playwright named Matt enters the bar and announces that he would like to join their Shakespeare bashing club and write a play that may help them get even. After his induction, which includes chugging a glass of pig's blood (or pooping in a bucket, for others), the clan agrees to give him a stab at it—literally.
While the whole purpose of the play is to poke fun at/defame Shakespeare, I found myself enjoying the moments where the actors quoted him or acted out scenes from his plays, such as John D'Arcangelo's brilliant entrance from the audience, quoting Lear, "Blow winds and crack your cheeks!" or Ophelia #482's random mad dance. Another enjoyable aspect of this production is the play within the play. Three-fourths of the way in, the actors present Matt's play, which begins with Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear dressed in black with white mop strings on their head, chanting in a circle, like the three witches in the opening of Macbeth. I enjoyed what director Laura Konsin does with her actors in this segment; they are over the top, and the satire bodes well.
Comical bits include a light-saber match between Christopher Marlowe, played by Ben Holmes, who also plays Romeo, and Shakespeare, played by Greg Ayers, who also plays Matt, and an audition by Marlowe's cousin, played humorously by Kelsey Formost, who also plays Ophelia #482, a young ditzy New York actress, whom I found to be a bit annoying and cliched. Saldarelli assigns a number of cliches to his characters, including Juliet, a promiscuous school girl, who could be found on the set of Gossip Girl, though Amanda Tudesco gets it right on the nose and keeps Juliet interesting.
Though the play is called Getting Even with Shakespeare, it's an irreverent show for Shakespeare aficionados and theater fans to laugh at. And while the references to Pirandello, Jean Paul Sartre, Samuel Becket, Christopher Marlowe, and Harold Bloom may be highbrow, most of the punch lines are not.