Therapy in the rough

Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ha ha ha! (chortle) He he he (snort) ha (deep breath). Sorry. I do apologize, I've just been to see Theatre in the Rough's latest production, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged," and I needed to catch my breath.

If you've been hitting the Prozac lately, what with the ushering in of the fall season and all, lay off the pills and cancel the shrink: This is all the cheering up you'll need for a while. You'll be laughing by the first five minutes and dangerously close to wetting yourself by the end. Days later people will start giving you worried looks as you become prone to random bursts of sudden mirth.

That's OK though, you'll be saving so much in therapy costs that you won't notice.

In our times of economic hardship, the artists of Theatre in the Rough are doing their bit to safeguard your wallet by concentrating all of Shakespeare's plays and poetry into a single show. Just imagine the savings on admission to dozens of boring plays, not to mention the stimulants necessary to stay awake at poetry readings! Get your whole year's worth of culture in one compact two-hour course. Now we can all splurge a little and get that big screen TV to watch the Superbowl on. You'll also be able to brag about having seen all of Shakespeare's plays and no one will know what a roaring good time you had doing it!

All kidding aside, this is a seriously side-splitting way to spend an evening. Those who went to this play a few years ago when it was presented by the same group will recognize it, yet there is something new to take away. The same hilarious trio will make you laugh just as hard, but with a lot of new gags and angles. Saying that the references have been updated is grossly understating it. The staging is new, the costumes are reinvented (had to be, the old ones burned after all) yet there remains a cheerful air of familiarity about the play.

Theatre in the Rough has accustomed us to some fine acting, and this production does not disappoint. Speaking as someone who notices voices, Donny Gott's joyful, almost girlish vocal quality as narrator provided impetus and spontaneity throughout the piece. I had thoroughly enjoyed her portrayal of the fox in the Little Prince last year and was glad to see her again on the stage. Meanwhile, Aaron Elmore's thundering, brassy baritone was priceless in his "tales from the crypt" ghostly echoes impression, and Ed Christian's raspy, quintessential chords beautifully failed to become the voice of reason in this marvelous farce.

Make no mistake - they may seem like three brats on a sugar high having the time of their lives; yet, for having sung in a couple of comedies, I know how difficult they are to pull off. This show is a hands down, drop dead riot.

The artistic vibe in me appreciated the opportunity to participate in Theatre in the Rough's silent auction of art with many of the good names of Juneau: Rie Munoz, Jim Fowler and more, including Elmore himself. It's a great opportunity to support one of the most worthy causes in Juneau at the moment - the rebuilding of Holy trinity and McPhetres Hall. When I learned that Theatre in the Rough pledged to raise $150,000 towards that project, I ended up bidding on a reproduction of a sizeable piece with a French quatrain woven into the composition background - after all, time to get quatrains before they go out of fashion in 2012 right?

For the record - I am not affiliated with Theatre in the Rough in any way. I just had so much fun seeing their production that I had to share. This show involves the audience like the previous one did, so I won't spoil it for those who didn't go to the previous edition. Let's just say everyone will participate, some more than others, and that looking dignified is low on the forecast board.

If you have a clean record and have never seen a single Shakespeare play, that won't be changing. If you've never seen Hamlet - this is one of the better chances you'll have to see it. I know I'm going back.

One thing though - sit in the front row at your own risk. Don't say I didn't warn you!

• Philippe Damerval is a Juneau resident.

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