From shrews to gentlemen, tyrants to jesters, all of Shakespeare's favorite characters — and a few new additions — make an appearance in Shakespeare on the Green's indoor production, "The Rude Mechanicals," which opens tonight at the Underground. Featuring eight Shakespeare-inspired scenes, "The Rude Mechanicals" showcases both the hilarious and the dramatic, weaving together a near-flawless production of laughs and laments.
The show opens with a scene from "The Taming of the Shrew," in which the marriage of Kate (Christina Sauer '14), the shrew, is announced by her joyful suitor, Petruchio (Danny Garfield '13). If looks could kill, he would surely be six feet under by the force of Sauer's glare. "Kiss me Kate!" he says, pulling her to him quickly. No sooner does he release her than she wipes his kiss away.
Next up is the hilarious comedic sketch "Shakespeare's Who's On First." Starring Nicola Ryan '13 and Will Ruehle '13, the scene's playful adaptation fuses an old joke with older English to the delight of audience members. Commissioned to find athletes "fit to play this raucous sport before the king," the two characters go about setting the primary, secondary and tertiary positions — first, second and third base — amid cresting comedic frustration. Audience members must laughingly agree to "give thee bloody teeth" if a verily true answer is withheld. Who hath the primary position?
In the next scene, from "Measure for Measure," the fate of pious Isabella's (Siri Olson '14) brother lies in the philandering hands of Angelo (Emma Johnson '14). If Isabella renounces her vows and sleeps with him, Angelo will release her brother. Johnson's Angelo is superb — unexpected from a female in an overtly masculine role. Her strut is slow, deliberate and menacing toward the conflicted Isabella.
A romantic scene from "Henry V" follows in which Henry (Gordon Sayre '12) is determined to woo the beautiful Katherine (Emily Oliveira, a RISD sophomore), princess of France. Henry paints himself as the humble suitor whose ability to woo is sorely lacking, but his sincerity and sweet words ensnare both Katherine and the audience nonetheless. Rooting for the underdog has never been such fun as Sayre presents a charming, comedic — though undoubtedly determined — suitor.
Continuing the pattern of surprising the audience with emotional twists and turns, "The Rude Mechanicals" continues with a tragic scene from "Richard III" in which Richard (Harry Aspinwall '11) attempts to seduce the grieving Lady Anne (Sophie Netanel '11.5) at the funeral of her husband — whom he has had murdered. Aspinwall's Richard is appropriately sinister to Netanel's blind fury. It is a battle of words and wills between these two hard-headed characters with an outcome sitting grimly on the horizon.
The concluding sketches are equal in their hilarity. In "Shakespeare's Editor" the audience learns that Hamlet's famous line "To be or not to be?" was a shortened soliloquy "Bill" (Andrew Favaloro GS) only agreed to on the condition that his two "Cockney gravediggers" made the final cut. And in an excerpt from "The Tempest," the audience is treated to a drunkenly brilliant scene between a jester, a butler and a son of a witch. The production also features a scene from "A Winter's Tale."
Together, the scenes featured in "The Rude Mechanicals" are delightfully diverse, amusing and riveting. Fine acting and classic text — with the occasional twist — make for a splendid evening.