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ALTUCHER OUTCHARMS AQUILA’S COMEDY(PLUS PIE)

November 20, 2008

Well, the rough draft started off differently, but it’s been a hectic week starting last Friday, too many days with lunch at 4 p.m., no time to read the day before’s paper and then a Clif Bar (chocolate chip) at 7, and then not bad, but wrong Shakespeare this afternoon (more later), so I stretched out on the couch and turned directly to the Tuesday(delivered on Wednesday) Wealth page of my Financial Times to read James Altucher’s column. And there he was, charming and funny and not at all excessively like anything (especially not anything like the soon to be mentioned Comedy of Groin Kicking Horrors). It made me wonder if I had a budget that could stretch to $27.95 for the buying of his new book, The Forever Portfolio. His chapter titles intrigued and amused me, especially “Bloody Marys, Dividends and the San Francisco Earthquake” and “Bubble 2.0: Women’s Legs and Tatoos.” Yes, mark me down as susceptible to mentions of women’s legs; he later mentions chocolate. I also like his stated goal to help his readers worry less. I could worry less.

Pre column read, I actually checked yesterday at my alternate office to see if they had it in, but it was an order at the info desk item and my order at the info desk limit is $10 or so. Next stop, library. I did casually mention to Gayle that I might not mind it for Christmas after reading Mr. Altucher’s charming and non annoying self promotion, but we had also talked the previous day about how a DVD we both like might be the best Christmas choice this year, since what I actually want is $699 on sale animation software, after the usual Rolls Royce Silver Ghost (yes, a pre Top Gear urge…I would write Christmas lists starting with that on the blackboards in high school, if I remember correctly) and the DVDs I bought Gayle last year are still unopened.

Right, wrong, not bad Shakespeare by the Aquila Theatre Company(the NY Times apparently disagrees; that’s probably why we don’t meet on Tuesdays or Wednesday or even Sundays anymore). I had previously seen and admired their Julius Caesar and King Lear and regretted missing their Avengers themed(TV series, not comic book)Much Ado.

Great voices, but their Dromio was more a physical comedian than a verbal and the Dromio humor is so much about wordplay. I think– actually, I know “Comedy of Errors” can get laughs without merely resorting to broadly physical groin (or groan) centric humor. The second half unravelled, there were extraneous burkhas — if they wear them outside once so a strip tease can happen, make sure they wear them again, especially when addressing the Duke — and torture (we must,of course, be timely) and yes, Act V is a nightmare to do — trust me on this, I once hit an old man on the head with a spear to get him out of the way of the rest of the actors, but I’ve learned since then — it got the biggest laugh of the show and depressed me about audiences for years — but when you have an excellent Adriana, don’t make her sprint through her last long speech just to get it over with, if you haven’t been gradually increasing her franticness and word per second rate — or speed up Antipholus just to get to your big solution to the one actor per set of twins. Especially not after you’ve padded the last two acts which should just zoom by (we did the whole play in 80 minutes one year; I didn’t mean to, it just happened and it worked) by turning the Dr. Pinch scene into the Turkish hokey pokey and spending 3-5 minutes on harem girls. The Harvey Fiersteinesque version of Luce/Nell and the Courtesan worked and was extremely entertaining, Balthasar was a small gem of gravity, but on the whole, Shakespeare is funny enough that people shouldn’t be laughing just at swords zipping their way out of trousers. I liked the Oriental carpet defining their set and the lighting effects to emphasize “spooky.” Like I said, not a bad performance, just something that read wrong to me…

As mentioned before, I think “The Comedy of Errors” is the third funniest play in the English language(I am willing to read other nominees; please suggest). I believe the humor works better if you see some non frantic character and relationship building between the actors. What Shakespeare does best is create these wonderful INDIVIDUALS. They interact; they are not stereotypes; they can be played by actors of nearly any race, gender or temperment, as long as the actor gives him or her self over to the script. I always tell my actors that Shakespeare has given them everything they need in their script. He even writes down a lot of the blocking. If he says “knock thy pate,’ well, then yes, please hit someone on the head. But nowhere does he say have the short sighted awkward spinsterish Luciana wriggle out of a burkha after her sister nearly peels herself out of both burkha and dress. He also doesn’t say insert shiny sword in pants, walk in straight legged half circles awkwardly and then, if you’re Dromio, pull shiny sword out and grab your groin like you’ve cut something I don’t really want to hear about off. And, if you’re going to take that angle of approach, at least have Dromio bleed a little (or a gusher), darn it.

Did I mention I liked the lighting? Right, time to stop ranting and on the morrow, watch something directed by Kenneth Branagh. I long to travel to a theatre and see a Shakespearean play that will impress me. Yes, aggravating me is also inspirational; I now have an excellent idea for the backstage Romeo and Juliet movie I’ve been wanting to write, but I want to go to a theatre and be wowed by the acting and wooed by the language.

There I’ve ranted. And now I’m late for a date with pie(pizza) and iPie (iCarly’s webbiest Wednesdays).

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