REVIEW: Imogen Says Nothing

Imogen Says Nothing by Aditi Kapil is a spinoff story of the character Imogen in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. She’s a character some have interpreted as a typo because she says nothing. However, Kapil turns this character, who serves no purpose in the original, into the main character of a “revisionist comedy in verse and prose” that SMTD describes on their website as a “feminist hijacking of Shakespeare that investigates the voices that have long been absent from the theatrical canon and the consequences of cutting them.” It highlights how women have historically been only seen as an image and deprived of their words. The play not only puts a big emphasis on the power of speech but the power of writing too. 

The premise is a bit confusing: Imogen is a bear disguised as a woman and has been living as a woman for a few years. She travels outside of her small village to the bigger cities and along the way gets dragged onto the stage in the middle of a performance of Much Ado About Nothing. In Elizabethan England, all female characters were played by men because only men were allowed to act. As a result, Imogen has to pretend to be a man playing a woman, and that woman is Imogen herself. In other words, she’s a bear disguised as a woman who pretends to be a man acting out a woman.

It has heavy themes of violence and animal abuse and there are explicit drinking and sex scenes. Furthermore, Imogen is constantly degraded for being female and fat; she even says that her only talent is “whoring”. When she is praised, it’s for her ability to make others laugh but it’s usually because she’s mocked for her background and intelligence. 

Nevertheless, it’s still a comedy and masks the darker content with humor and fun character dynamics. My favorite character was Nicholas Tooley; in the beginning, others always teased him because he was so innocent and pure, but in the end, he was so sassy and dramatic. It was also really funny when there were modern versions of objects on set. For example, for the alcohol they used White Claw, and when checking their contact information they would pull out their cell phones. 

Overall, I highly recommend watching it. It’s a play that’s hard to grasp but fascinating, especially the ending which was the best part. It took a sudden abstract twist that circled back to the underlying message with a single chilling line directed at the audience: “Exit man.” 

REVIEW: A Midsummer night’s dream

This performance of a midsummer night’s dream was very special. With minimal backdrop and music, the attention was really focused on the acting. The actors really took this opportunity to showcase their range of voice and such. I especially loved the performance of Helena and Oberon (the fairy king). Their performances especially commanded everyone’s attention and their stage presence was powerful.

The outfits of the fairies were very cool. That brings me to the topic of costumes! This play had an interesting fusion of modern costumes in a Shakespearean play. Seeing people in modern school uniforms talk Shakespeare and the human King and queen wearing modern formal outfits like tuxedoes was special. I think it was a good choice and made the show really different from traditional Shakespearean performances. This choice of costumes like t shirts, heels, tartan skirts, Winx Club like outfits on the fairies made the play experimental and I liked how displaced it made the play seem! It was a nice clash of time periods.

The dream-like quality and confusion of the plot suited this clashing outfit choice and put the audience also in an air of amazement and confusion like the characters being played with by the fairy cohort.

The sound effects and lighting added a nice hint of magic and surrealness to the play. The parts involving the fairies singing and magic were probably my favorite parts because of how elusive they were. The play’s highest moment, leaving the audience in shrieks of laughter, was definitely when Helene, Hermia, and their lovers meet after the men have been given love potions. The energy of the characters and the comic timing of the situation was very well suited.

This play was a lovely treat of magic, love, and playfulness. It did not try to be more serious than it should be and the jokes were funny. It was a perfect show to see to have a fun evening!

REVIEW: Much Ado About Nothing

This weekend, the RC Players put on a fantastic rendition of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The choice to set the tale in a modern-day office environment was a good one, suiting well a story of drama, deception, and debate. Beatrice and Benedick can’t stand each other, but their scheming friends know they’re perfect for each other. While Beatrice’s cousin and Benedick’s fellow soldier friend await their wedding day, they scheme with Don Pedro to get the two fated lovebirds Benedick and Beatrice together. Through classic knowingly-overheard conversations and witty banter, the scheme works! But the besotted bickering couple can’t meet a happy ending without some scandal first, involving public disgrace and a rumored death…

Shakespeare, for the modern general audience, can be a little hard to digest, but director and assistant director Will McClelland and Darby Williams did a fantastic job of making the story engaging and entertaining on many levels. Shakespearean shenanigans were well carried out by the energetic cast who scarcely ever hesitated on a line’s delivery. I was especially impressed by Leonato’s scorning-his-daughter monologues performed by Laila Krugman and Maeson Linnert’s suave Don Pedro.

A truly great performance!

PREVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Midsummer Night’s Dream is a classic Shakespeare comedy following the king and queen of the forest, four runaway lovers, and a troupe of actors as they cross paths in a forest full of comedy, confusion, and some dark consequences.

This showing of the play is a National Theater Live broadcast, being screened at the Michigan Theater. This means that it is being performed live at the Royal National Theater in London, and we will be watching it being filmed on screen.

I am very excited to see this show, as it is one that I have only read and never seen. The show is playing Sunday evening, November 24 at 7 pm in the Michigan Theater Auditorium.

Link to info/tickets:

REVIEW: NT Live: Hamlet

“Hamlet,” written almost 400 years ago, is a timeless piece of work by Shakespeare, performed thousands of times with hundreds of different Hamlets. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the lead character in the National Theatre Live 2015 production of this play, and the Michigan Theater played two showings of this performance. I didn’t know I needed Benedict Cumberbatch to be Hamlet until I saw this production. Cumberbatch nailed Hamlet’s anguished soliloquies and acts of madness with great humor and delivered his lines with great position. When he pretends to be mad when confronted by Polonius and dresses up at a giant toy soldier, he humorously tiptoes across the line of sanity, something he seems to cross by the end of the play.

Horatio, dressed in a simple flannel and a simple backpack, offered a simple alternative to Hamlet and the life in the palace, just as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern returned from his childhood as colorful characters. Polonius, the ever-verbose lord, rattled off his lines with such breathlessness that makes his pompous character memorable. Ophelia’s presence onstage seemed brief and disjointed, just as the constant presence of her camera and her love for photography was a detail seemingly overplayed with little significance.

The stunning of the visuals of the blue-lit stage set the mood beautifully, providing a foreboding edge to this great tragedy. The bursts of intense sounds and quick scene changes adds to the disorienting sense from the scene. Though the play ran for 3 hours and 20 minutes, the performance honestly flew by. No one seemed bored or restless, completely captivated by this once-live performance that grandly executed one of Shakespeare’s greats.

PREVIEW: NT Live: Hamlet

“To be, or not to be, that is the question.” These iconic lines from the classic Shakespeare play are going to echo through the Michigan Theater as it shows the National Theatre 2015 broadcast of Hamlet. Catch the stunning Benedict Cumberbatch as the title prince struggling to keep his sanity while protecting his country. The production plays on Sunday, January 27 at 7pm, and tickets can be bought at the League Ticket Office for $12 with a student ID.