Sunday, September 26, 2010

Getting Even With Shakespeare

What is the difference between a play and a skit? This question came to mind while watching Matt Saldarelli's amusing but slight piece, Getting Even With Shakespeare (presented as part of the Fringe Encores). A play, it seems to me, has a beginning, a middle, and an end; at least one character who changes and grows (or whose lack of growth is the point); and a coherent depiction of its world, realistic or not. A skit, on the other hand, consists of an idea or two developed for laughs, with unidimensional characters and a willingness to throw consistency to the winds for the sake of a laugh.

Getting Even With Shakespeare falls into the skit category, and as such it has much to offer. To start with, it has an amusing concept: a lawyer who is bored with his life wanders into the bar where Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet hang out when they are not being called upon to inhabit actors playing them anywhere in the world. It also boasts some funny supplementary ideas (an errant word or moment can send any of the characters off into one of their monologues) and a strong cast. However, it has a tendency toward "in" jokes and being too pleased with itself, and it definitely overstays its welcome. For Getting Even With Shakespeare to be a fully successful skit, it would need to be streamlined. For it to be a successful play, it would need to be more fully developed. In either case, it would need to be more focused on the audience's needs and less on the playwright's, director's, and actors'.

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