Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Like My Strumpets

I was told more than once that I'll go see anything, no matter how obscure or obtuse, just to go out.

Tahitian acrobat cymbalists? Sure.  Moroccan throat singing mimes? Okay.

So naturally I perked up when I saw that the next in the Richmond Shakespeare Bawdy Bard staged reading series was just such a hybrid.

Improv comedians and Shakespearean actors doing, what else, Shakesprov.

Shoot, I was at Capital Ale House an hour before doors opened.

Don't tempt my sense of humor and my intellect unless you mean it.

I'd brought along an improv master (or so he claimed) to laugh with me.

When the host said we had to wait until 7:30 to go in, I asked of him the time.

Glancing at his watch, he told me it was 7:11, much to my amazement.

That's so cool that you wear a watch, I told him.

He instinctively went to thank me and instead got a knowing grin on his face and said, "Right?"

Right, indeed. We had a ten-minute conversation about the lost art of watch-wearing and I got a peek into why a 25-year old chooses to daily wear the watch his mother gave him for his eighteenth birthday.

Pulling it off his wrist, he pointed to the back of the face proudly. "No battery!" he boasted. "It's got a spring."

Just like in the olden days.

But food waits for no time talk, so we sent him on his way and began by scoring white chicken chili at the bar while waiting for the doors to open.

On the plus side, the cannelini was toothsome and the bits of fresh jalapeno added a nice heat to each bite. On the minus side, it wasn't nearly hot enough, especially on a frigid night like this.

Once the doors opened, it was an easy walk to a front table in the music hall.

Part of the beauty of comedy and iambic pentameter intersecting tonight was that it was happening in a bar, meaning we were supposed, nay, even encouraged, to eat, drink and chatter during the show.

You don't have to tell me twice (Cobb salad, chocolate cake and any number of asides).

The Shakesproving jumped right in with a game where two people had to argue the pluses and minuses of an issue thrown out by the audience.

You now, stuff like, global warming (yea or nay) or lead paint poisoning (good or bad?).

I see now that was just to warm us up, get our laughing muscles loosened up.

Next came a game called Replay where crowd suggestions formed the device, in this case, cross dressing, murder and love, all then executed Shakespearean-style.

The replay came in when they then had to redo that scene through other lenses.

We saw it done with hate, as a coking show and Al Capone gangster-style.

You might be surprised at how the same scene was funny all four ways.

The next game, Playwright, used technology, so I would have been useless to them.

Each of the four onstage had their phone set on the script of one of three plays (Othello, Taming of the Shrew, Julius Cesar), ready to use whatever lines from it they chose.

With an improv comedian to facilitate the scene between them, each actor had to use only lines from the play he'd been given to further the dialog.

When Adam grabbed himself and uttered, "I fear it is too choleric a meat," the audience about lost it.

There was a game where they had to mime pre-determined components of a murder (dog park, painter, gouging out eyes and then poisoning) and get the contestant to guess the scenario, "Clue"-like.

You can't imagine how amusing miming eye gouging can be until you've seen it.

Buzz/Ding, the next amusement, required the Bawdy Bard's guiding light, Kerry, to come onstage and, much like with Richmond Comedy Coalition's "Richmond Famous" nights, share tidbits about her life, job and friends.

It's overshare and then be skewered for it, pretty much.

From there, four of them improved Kerry's life while she sat there with a human "buzzer" and a human "dinger" and hit the appropriate one depending on how accurately her life was being depicted.

Hysterical as their depictions seemed to the audience, most of the time she was buzzing.

And now all the room knows her boss likes booze humor and bathroom jokes.

So, yes, laughter always comes back to potty humor, even with the Bard.

The longest game was Story, wherein we helped create a many-chaptered book while eliminating people from the stage.

"The Dark Prince Emerges," became the title by default when a man yelled it out first.

He continued to announce the name before each new chapter, varying his voice for dramatic value.

From there we had eight chapters, including a particularly enthusiastic and protracted one on breasts, nipples and milk.

The guys could have run with that all night, but Katie tried to curtail them eventually, suggesting we moved on from mammaries.

Aw, do we have to, their faces seemed to say.

There was a different component added in for each new chapter and whichever person lost the thread (sometimes in mid-syllable or final consonant) was eliminated.

Stacie ended up being last breasts standing, no small accomplishment.

The Dating Game used stock Shakespeare types - Ophelia, a rich father and sad blood (the most melancholy Thomas ever)- as the bachelors while the lusty bachelorette asked animated questions to find her Mr. Right.

Only occasionally did things get a little skeevy.

"We'll edit that out later," host David said to the studio audience more than once.

Soliloquy required any of the four people in the skit to stop and do a monologue when pointed to.

To their credit, each one was fearless about taking center stage with made-up words while all froze around him.

After so much effort on their part (all we'd had to do was cackle), we closed with a fun game, a little number called I Like My Strumpets.

We'd throw out something (clowns, chainsaws, Julius Cesar, ruffled shirts) and they'd take turns making analogies.

"Shakespeare used a lot of puns," host Matt said, "But he also talked about butts a lot."

So you can imagine where that took us.

I like my strumpets like I like my chainsaws...with teeth!

The women in the group quickly tired of strumpets and began using lords instead to convey their points.

I like my lords like I like my ruffled collars...a little rumpled and stiff.

Wah, wah.

So here goes.

I like my evenings like I like my dark princes...funny, smart and good kissers.

And they can mime their choleric meat, but I don't need to see it.

Of course, with Shakesprov, we can always edit that out later.

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