Sunday, October 23, 2011

Beat It

It's not often I'm willing to  wait in line for an hour and a quarter, but for Henley Street's Annual Bootleg Shakespeare, I do.

Happily and with my mouth running to my friend about the past few months of my life for entertainment, we stayed until we scored two fifth row seats before looking for a place to eat.

Given the limited time we had, we settled for a restaurant in the parking lot, Ledo's Pizza.

And there I had a bit of a cultural shock.

There were individual TVs at some of the tables. Not at the one we chose, you can be sure, but within view at a half dozen booths.

Please tell me this isn't the wave of the future.

Even the manager coming over to check on us and, seeing our glasses of red wine and white pizza with bacon, saying he was going to bring over the bottle of wine and get us drunk (we declined) couldn't compensate.

I'm sorry; a booth with a TV ensures no conversation and that's exactly what we saw. Silent people eating together without sharing a word.


Luckily, seeing "Troilus and Cressida" made up for it all.

The bootleg experience, with the actors bringing their own costumes and props and  having no rehearsals except the day of the show, is one guaranteed to delight.

The actors experience things as the audience does and the results are always hilarious.

The evening always starts with a drawing and this year first prize was a basket with a plastic sword, a Cressida doll and a box of Trojans. Brilliant.

And this year, Henley had chosen a problem play, one I had never seen produced, so that was yet another exciting element.

It's a long play, too, but the energy of the actors kept things moving and there was enough comedy, bawdy and otherwise, around the tragedy and history to make the evening pass in a flash.

The story was mostly about the warring between the Trojans and Greeks but also about the doomed love affair of Troilus and Cressida.

To be wise and love
Exceeds man's might

Duh. So there's a truism as old as mankind.

Achilles, played by Joe Carlson, strutted around in his underwear and an open robe, lusting after men and powdering his privates.

Cynde Liffick played Agamemnon in a red shirt and black leather jacket, but it was her one sequined glove that made the costume.

She got a well-deserved round of applause for delivering the endless list of the the dead and wounded.

I always find that Adam Mincks, here as Aeneas, makes me laugh out loud and he did it many times tonight.

A scene where he handed a half-eaten apple to the old man Nestor and then kept checking on it with sly glances had the audience in stitches.

And the very old Nestor, played by Liz Blake-White, was the physical comedy of the play, moving slowly as if with great age and often being scooped up by another character to move her along.

Her line, "I'll hide my silver beard in a golden beaver," was met with outbursts of laughter from many.

Women are angels wooing.

As many times as I've seen Foster Solomon in a production, this was the first time I saw him play big and dumb.

It was, in fact, his big fight with Hector, played by Matt Hackman, that put the audience over the top.

Their staged fight segued into the dance moves for MJ's "Beat It" with the entire cast joining in. It was amazing just how well they pulled off the moves at a moment's notice, especially the big, dumb Ajax.

And his line about "The policy of those crafty, swearing rascals is not proved worth a blackberry...or maybe a Droid," showed his improvisational skills.

Being a punk version of Shakespeare, many actors wore T-shirts ("Survival Tonight Mandatory") and lip "piercings" that were removed for kissing scenes.

Cressida, played by Zoe Speas, was flawless in her belted body suit, ripped fishnets and spot-on delivery.

In a scene about her frustration over losing Troilus she ad-libbed about tearing out her "awesome" hair, a nod to her spiky and fashionable haircut.

It was little things like when Cressida left for Greece and Troilus came out in the next scene with an "X" over his heart.

A very sweet and touching statement.

Being a problem play, nothing was really resolved at the end. There were dead people, as usual, but no reunited lovers or unmasked characters.

Just like real life, I suppose.


We chose Fanhouse for a post-theater cocktail and walked into a mixologist extravaganza, not completely unusual there since Bobby Kruger runs the place, but even the guests were the talented sort tonight.

A high point of the night was when four of them combined resources to create one cocktail.

First one chose a gin, then Frangelico was added by another, then bitters by someone else and the final ingredients by the fourth.

They brainstormed on garnishes and toppings, but the final result was quite tasty, said the non-gin drinker (okay, me).

A group came in and order Jager bombs and as I saw Bobby making them, I asked if his soul was dying a little.

"Yea," he admitted, "But not as bad as if they'd asked for appletinis."

Everything is relative.

Or, as he pointed out, "We have competing demographics in here tonight."

Now that was some restaurant diplomacy.

A low point of the evening was when the volume on the sound system got turned up for R Kelly, making conversation impossible ("Everyone wants to hear R Kelly loud," Bobby insisted), until enough customers requested it be lowered.

But when the '80s arrived in the musical form of the Outfield's "Your Love," and the volume was again raised, there was much singing along and drumming on the bar.

I did neither, but to the observant type, my thoughts were all there.

They always are if you're paying attention.

There's language in her eye, her check, her lip
Nay, her foot speaks; her wanton spirit looks out
At every joint and motive of her body.


  1. Thanks Karen, it was fun having you there. You are the best theatre fan ever!

  2. Only because I live in a superb theater town!