Thursday, May 19, 2011

Love's Labour's Lost-- Shakespeare in Zilker Park!

For reasons which, in hindsight I cannot grasp, I somehow missed out on seeing a Shakespeare in the Park production until I was nearly forty. That first experience-- I believe it was  A Midsummer Night's Dream-- was in Omaha, Nebraska of all places. That was years ago and I can still see the performers, still see the crowd, still remember the picnic we brought and how the cashier at the grocery store in Lincoln-- where I bought the picnic stuff-- insisted on reciting the receipt as if he were playing Hamlet.

Perhaps it was this initiation to the beloved ritual of outdoor Shakespeare shows that got me so hooked on the experience and triggered an insatiable hunger that revisits me each year. Is there a better way to spend one's time than eating splendid food with one's friends on a warm night under a rising moon while the Bard's genius unfolds a stone's throw away? Methinks not.

And so it was with tremendous glee that, once again, I organized an outing to catch a production by Austin Shakespeare at the Zilker Hillside Theater. This season-- which runs 8 pm Thursdays - Sundays through May 29th -- the offering is Love's Labour's Lost, directed by my old friend and former editor, Robert Faires, an absolute Shakespeare fanatic.

Faires has done something wonderful with this show-- he's made it a mashup of the original 16th century writing and '60s (as in the 1960's) surf scene. I admit I was pretty curious heading in to see how he'd pull this off and/but I can now assure you he pulls it off excellently. Bringing particular joy are moments when Bill S's words are retrofitted with popular '60s melodies.

So, about the play itself. LLL is not as well-known or frequently performed as Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Midsummer Night's Dream, and all those other super-popular Shakespeare plays. What that means is that-- unlike Hamlet, say, which is packed with so many greatest-hit lines that even an uninitiated Shakespeare audience newbie would recognize them from common usage in our language-- unless you studied Shakespeare or read the play before seeing the show, you might risk getting a bit lost in the dialogue. Really though, it's pretty simple. Four young men (including a king) swear off women for three years so that they can focus on their studies. Naturally, this vow comes just as four young women (including a princess) are heading into town for a little vacation. Mayhem and hilarity ensue and there's the old play-within-the-play routine as well as the old bumbling-messenger-delivers-wrong-epistle-to-wrong-recipient routine which, naturally, sets everything on its head.

As I took in the updated '60s theme, that got me thinking about other manners in which the play easily relates to the here and now. The comedic mixup of mis-delivered notes, the women toying with the men by changing their appearances-- this all spoke to me of misleading pictures posted on and accidentally sent emails, and all the kookiness these things sometimes prompt.

So then-- Love's Labour's Lost: a most excellent chance for y'all to spend a long evening out under the stars. My recommendation? Get there super early like I did (6 pm) and you'll get to stake out a primo spot and also get some great people-watching in beforehand. And I am offering free tickets to the first four people who can answer the question: What color is John Aielli's shirt today? JK! JK! Actually, the show is totally free-- although if you can, bring a few bucks to throw into the tip jars (oh god, not the Tip Jar thing again...) to help support this wonderful Austin tradition.

No comments: