Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Bard Crawl: Twelfth Night
Necessity fosters inventiveness. Duke City Rep is a troupe of very talented actors who are currently homeless, in the sense that they have no performing space to call their own. So somebody (Martin Andrews, maybe?) came up with the idea of not even looking for a stage on which to perform. Why not do a play in a nontraditional setting? Albuquerque has had an explosion of brewpubs lately. Why not take advantage of that and do Shakespeare in a brewpub? And not just in one brewpub, but in five different brewpubs on five different nights, and call it Bard Crawl. Sounds sketchy, but it turns out to be wonderful.
The thinking behind this is to go back to how Shakespeare plays were originally performed. Rowdy crowds; actors who get their lines the same day they perform them (and not the whole script, just their lines); minimal rehearsal (in Duke City Rep's case, they had only one rehearsal five days before the first performance); lines are forgotten, but the stage manager calls them out. Surprisingly, it turns out to be a most excellent evening of theater that is not in a theater.
It helps if you're already familiar with Twelfth Night, because a brewpub is not the best place to concentrate on plot. I remember that the first time I saw the play, years ago, I had a hard time at the beginning figuring out what was going on. Viola and Sebastian, a brother and sister who look like identical twins are separated in a shipwreck off the coast of Illyria. Each assumes that the other has drowned. It helps a little that this version includes a shipwreck scene before the famous opening line, "If music be the food of love, play on."
Viola, the sister, disguises herself as a eunuch called Cesario in order to serve the count Orsino, whom she immediately falls in love with. But Orsino loves Olivia, who says she cares nothing for him or any man, since she is in mourning. However, when Cesario comes as an emissary from Orsino to Olivia, Olivia immediately falls in love with Cesario. In short order, Orsino sort of falls in love with Cesario, too. Luckily, Sebastian shows up, so we can end the play with a double wedding, since it was de rigueur in those days that all comedies end in a wedding. I'm not even going to get into the subplot with Olivia's hangers-on and Malvolio, which I have never found very funny, just cruel.
The opening night I attended, at Dialogue Brewing, happened to be an unseasonably cold and rainy evening for the end of April. It was in the 30s, and the play was supposed to be performed in the outdoor area of the place. The audience was game to brave the weather anyway. The play started outside, but about 10 minutes into it, it started sleeting. Everybody moved inside, where all the seating was already occupied by patrons who were not there to see Shakespeare. Somehow everyone managed to squeeze in, and the actors carried on despite a fair amount of noise from the back of the room (let's call those people the groundlings). Twelfth Night was run through without intermission, clocking in at under two hours, and a great time was had by all (even, I think, most of those who came to the brewpub to drink beer and involuntarily ended up watching an Elizabethan comedy). Future performances will almost certainly have better weather than we had, but the ability of the cast to adapt to adverse circumstances was a large part of the evening's charm.
For once, I don't have to comment on the set, the lighting and the sound, since there weren't any. The performances were all thoroughly enjoyable, as is always the case with Duke City Rep. Company members Amelia Ampuero, Katie Becker Colón, Ezra Colón, Frank Taylor Green, Josh Heard and Ashley Daniels continue their tradition of being really good actors who seem to be having a ton of fun performing. My favorite performance this time is Katie's as Olivia, with her quick changes of mood, but I feel guilty singling out just one actor when they all are outstanding. The reppers have a fine bunch of friends who likewise braved the elements: Martin Andrews (a Shakespeare natural), Willis Miller, Kenneth Ruthardt, Mikael Ayele, Danielle Robertson, Cyd Du Bois, and Shad Adair.
Even if you don't like beer, or don't drink at all, I'm pretty sure that you'll have a terrific time with Duke City Rep at any of the brewpubs on their itinerary. Performances run through May 13, 2017. For locations and dates, check the website www.dukecityrep.com. Admission is free, no drink minimum, but a $10 donation is recommended.