Comment on this article

 A Taste of Shakespeare
Reviewed by Ed Bennett
When I moved to Las Vegas five years ago I was told that it was a cultural wasteland with nothing more than self draining wallets and a theater season running on pure silicone. This is, of course, an exaggeration, no doubt by visitors who left a paycheck or two on the gaming tables. Still, one needs to look past the glitter and glitz to find contemporary drama or an opera and this isn't an easy task. Usually, the University Arts department can fill the need and sometimes, seemingly from nowhere, one finds a jewel in this desert. Such a jewel is the Las Vegas Shakespeare Company.
On Saturday, November 20th they opened at The Lakeside Theater, a new venue for them, with A Taste of Shakespeare. The production consists of excerpts from four plays, Romeo and Juliette, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream. According to the website the company applies "contemporary storytelling techniques" to a "distilled, fast paced" production. I'll admit that I was a bit uncomfortable, expecting to see "Great Square Inches of Art" in contemporary dress, i.e. tees and ripped jeans. The discomfort left as soon as the lights dimmed.
Lysander Abadia and Louisa Lawson performed a balcony scene from Romeo and Juliette. The dialog was from the play but the attitude of these two lovers was a welcome change from the overwrought lines dripping with impending tragedy. These two fine actors spoke the lines as ones who actually understand what's being said. Even more refreshing, they acted like two love struck (read: horny) teenagers with a generous dose of slapstick as they re-dressed when the dawn came. I am quite sure that I wasn't the only member of the audience who was surprised to find themselves laughing at a tragedy. Wester Cooley and Alexis Paul continued this lively conceit as Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Their energy and wit were reminiscent of Burton and Taylor in The Taming of the Shrew, an uncommon ability in actors so young.
The tragedies were represented as well by Ben Loewy and Rozanne Sher in their segment of Macbeth. They played the final scene where Lady Macbeth's madness ends in her suicide and Lord Macbeth's collapse. This is not an easy scene to act, especially since there are so many opportunities to take the role over the top emotionally. One felt the danger of the scene, the anger and futility of the murderous acts and the underlying feelings shared between Macbeth and his Lady. It is difficult to see love past the gore of this scene but both performers presented a complete and complex character trying to cope with their failings. The final act comes hard on the heels of Macbeth with the cast playing a raucous and incredibly hilarious scene of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Every line, every action and even the props were used to full comedic extent with this final scene more in tradition with Duck Soup than the Bard. This was not the boring, sometimes painful required reading of my youth. This is a bright and often brilliant staging of familiar scenes done from an intelligent and divergent point of view.
The Las Vegas Shakespeare Company sings for its supper at the Lakeside Theater but it can also be found in the schools of Clark County bringing this enjoyable Shakespeare production (and others) to children who might be put off from the daunting requirement of reading three or more acts in Elizabethan English. There are many reasons, as outlined above, to see this company perform their magic but their dedication to a school district already savaged by budget cuts is indeed commendable.
If you are in Las Vegas between January and February 2011, I would strongly urge you to spend an evening with the Las Vegas Shakespeare Company. First of all, like your High School English teacher said, it won't kill you. Second, it is extremely difficult to find an acting company with this much dedication and talent. Third, you would probably blow the price of the tickets in five minutes of play at any table in any casino in town. Why not enjoy yourself without all the adrenalin and despair?
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. I do hope this company stays here, if for any reason, so I can send my retort to those who call this a cultural wasteland. Before you pass judgment, take in a performance of the Las Vegas Shakespeare Company. You will be pleasantly surprised.



Ed Bennett is a Telecommunications Engineer living in Las Vegas. Originally from New York City, his work appeared in the Manhattan Quarterly and The Patterson Literary Review where he was a finalist for the Alan Ginsberg Poetry Award in 1997. His recent work has appeared in “The New Verse News”, “The Externalist”, “Philadelphia Poets”, “Quill and Parchment”, “Autumn Skies” and “Touch: The Journal of Healing”. In his spare time he searches for relatives dropped off in Area 51. The Lives You Touch Press will be publishing his chapbook, “A Transit of Venus”, in 2011.


Return to:

[New] [Archives] [Join] [Contact Us] [Poetry in Motion] [Store] [Staff] [Guidelines]