By Paige Pfleger, For the Daily
Published October 19, 2012
“A Bard by Any Other Name” would smell as sweet, or at least, it’s anticipated to in Ann Arbor Civic Theater’s Studio space. Residential College graduate and local playwright James Ingagiola re-imagines three of Shakespeare’s most popular plays — “Hamlet,” “Macbeth” and “Two Gentlemen of Verona” — in the style of modern playwrights Harold Pinter, Tennessee Williams and David Mamet, respectively.
A Bard by Any Other Name
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
A2CT Studio Theater
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Though the Bard’s work over the years has been interpreted in myriad ways, Ingagiola’s vision is distinct, according to Director Amanda Barnett.
“There are a lot of movies out that are loosely based off of (Shakespeare’s) stories, like how ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’ is based off ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ ” Barnett said. “We do a closer reinterpretation with a very specific style, making it very unique.”
Each play has been consolidated so all three can be presented in one showing. Due to the extent of each show's settings and characters, Ingagiola and Barnett opted for a minimalistic approach to the show. The actors will wear their normal street clothing, and props and extraneous scenery are kept to only the essentials.
These staunch differences between “A Bard by Any Other Name” and a typical extravagant Shakespeare production are purposeful. Barnett hopes that the minimalistic approach will eliminate distraction for the audience and make the language of the text take center stage. Barnett means to avoid the feeling that the audience is being placed into someone’s life, or being transported to another time or place. She anticipates that the show will instead be an experience that the audience and the actors can enjoy together.
Ingagiola draws from what modern audiences find to be ridiculous in Shakespeare’s original works and the humor created by those absurdities. However, using Shakespeare’s plays in a different light wasn’t as easy as the Bard buff had hoped.
“What was difficult was that Shakespeare’s plays aren’t perfect, as great as they are,” Ingagiola said. “I had to try to come to terms with the imperfections, and decide whether I should change them or bring them up.”
With the help of the diction and stylized voice of the modern playwrights, he creates humor from these absurdities.
The works of British playwright Harold Pinter are known for sparse language and the use of pregnant pauses, a style that Ingagiola applied to “Hamlet,” giving the play a more menacing edge by creating horror movie-style tension.
Author David Mamet has a similar style to Pinter, but with a more American sensibility. His work is paced faster and has a more colloquial dialect. “Two Gentleman of Verona” is reinterpreted in this style and re-interprets the play similar to Mamet’s “Sexual Perversity in Chicago”.
“It’s somewhat crude,” Ingagiola added. “But crude in an almost poetic way.”
Tennessee Williams has written Pulitzer-Prize winning hits like “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” elements of which Ingagiola has tried to recreate in “Macbeth.” Williams’s characters are known to have large personalities with a slight southern sensibility that contribute to the melodrama, adding to one of Shakespeare’s already drama-heavy works.
Once the lights of the stage go down and the curtain is closed, Ingagiola’s hopes the audience has been thoroughly entertained. They should expect funny moments, not because the show is written as a parody, but because the playwrights in and of themselves have humorous styles reflected and maximized by the application to Shakespeare’s works.
“The show will give (the audience) a different perspective on modern theater, and even Shakespeare, for that matter,” Ingagiola said.