Apr 14, 2011

[Theater] Shakespeare in Hollywood (Repertory Philippines)

Shakespeare in Hollywood (Repertory Philippines)Whether we realize it or not, Shakespeare is everywhere in terms of popular fiction and entertainment. In one way or another, the tales of Shakespeare have provided a template for many stories, and this is probably because his tales tap into many fundamentals of how people interact. By writing about such common and yet nonetheless significant aspects of life, he's managed to insert himself in almost every story around these days.

Of course there are the more deliberate adaptations. Beyond literal translations like the Romeo and Juliet movie with Leo DiCaprio, there have also been a number of movies that have crossed the sands of time to bring new life to classic tales. 10 Things I Hate About you, for example, is really The Taming of the Shrew in disguise.

Of all stories, I'm pretty sure that A Midsummer Night's Dream ranks way up there in terms of most adapted Shakespearian plays. In one form or another, the whole "play within a play" motif has become quite the common one and the influence of this one creative work can be felt in almost every form of entertainment ranging from comic books to feature films.

But of course the world of the stage play loves returning here the most, and such was the nature of this particular play.

Shakespeare in Hollywood is a comedy by Ken Ludwig as commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2003. The original play won the Helen Hayes award for Best New Play of the Year. This particular run was performed by Repertory Philippines as directed by Jaime del Mundo from April 1 - April 17 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at the Greenbelt OnStage theater.

The story begins with Austrian director Max Reinhart (Robie Zialcita) talking to the audience about how his latest film, A Midsummer Night's Dream, came to be despite the initial challenges. As we are taken back a year prior to 1934 when all this began. Just as filming begins, mythical characters Oberon (Hans Eckstein) and Puck (Red Concepcion) find themselves on the sound stage instead of back in Athens, Greece. As they try to figure out where (and when) they are, they soon fall into the glittery trap of Hollywood fame and somehow get cast in Reinhart's movie to play themselves.

But as is the way of such things, Oberon starts to take interest in Olivia (Caisa Borromeo), one of the actresses in the play. At the same time, he crosses path with movie censor William Hayes (Miguel Faustmann) and thus has Puck to acquire the flower that can be used on Hayes to enchant him to fall in love with the first person he sees, just like in the play. Naturally the flower leads to a number of unusual entanglements amongst the cast and crew, thus providing a most entertaining result.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935 film)Image via WikipediaThe movie works best when you have a appreciation of both Shakespeare's works and 1930's Hollywood. Oberon mainly speaks in Shakespearian quotes, thus providing fun trivia points throughout the show. And of course this all takes place during the production of an actual movie with the various players putting on their best impersonations of various famous actors of the era.

Cris Villonco was hilarious as the blonde bombshell actress Lydia and Miguel Faustmann's interpretation of Will Hayes was another laugh riot. Rem Zamora was a quaint James Cagney but Nic Campos really stole the show for those moments when he was on stage as Joe E. Brown. And one can't help but appreciate the pairing of Arnel Carrion as Jack Warner and Topper Fabregas as Daryl, his assistant / yes-man. The two really worked well together and well-represented the classic movie mogul era.

Hans Eckstein did a stellar job as Oberon. He has clearly done Shakespeare before and thus having him as the purely Shakespearian character on stage really, really worked. He played things as the straight man, from a comedic perspective, simply going on with his lines right out of various Shakespearian plays as if it was perfectly normal despite the reactions around him. And in this regard, he really helped push the comedy of the piece, something I wish had been done in the last Repertory production.

But I was most impressed with the extremely energetic Red Concepcion. His portrayal of a bouncing, bounding, rolling Puck was at times hard to believe to be real life and not some work of animation. And it totally worked for his character in the play and I'm sure everyone enjoyed any moments with him on stage, ready to jump onto the next prop while still delivering his lines flawlessly.

I guess my only real problem with the production remains to be Repertory's unusual technical challenges for lights and sounds. While the use of canned music is understandable, they often suffer in terms of timing or appropriateness, thus taking away some of the impact of the performance. Lighting was okay, although there were still instances when the stage seemed a bit too dark to make it feasible to see what was going on. While I respect the need to set mood properly, we still need to clearly get what's happening.

My partner and I totally loved the sets though. Having the set pieces facing away from the audience really helped push the feeling that we were on the production side of things instead of the audience. If anything, you have to respect the engineers behind the complex pulley system that positions set pieces into place with easy and minimal error throughout the show. And this is more than just individual backdrops - we're talking pillars being lowered from the ceiling and windows being used as transition devices to introduce characters onto the stage. Very, very well done indeed.

With this being the last weekend of the show, I strongly urge you to get and get tickets to see it before the run ends and the Holy Week begins. This is definitely a play that deserves better press and word of mouth since it is undeniably funny and worth the ticket price.

Shakespeare in Hollywood is a lovely comedic diversion that is both entertaining and witty - something you'll rarely get out of television or movies. It deserves 4 emotion-warping flowers out of a possible 5.

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  1. Was lucky to get tickets through Cash Cash Pinoy...

    Super Laughtrip itong show na ito!!!

  2. Oo nga eh! Congrats on getting a good deal!