It seems these days everything that is old is new again. 90210 2.0 premiered last week, the New Kids reunited this summer...are the '90s back? Well, the 1590s are back at Milwaukee Shakespeare and Love's Labour's Lost 21st Century repurposing is a must-see for both theatre-lovers and pop-culture aficionados alike (or any combination thereof).
A quick read of the program explains that this is Shakespeare's only "original" play (the others based on history, myth or literature) and was set around many of the current events and scandals of the late 16th century. [Think someone setting PerezHilton.com to iambic pentameter]. It kinda fell by the wayside for many centuries until people starting tweaking with it in the last hundred years or so. Even being an English major who aced every Shakespeare run-in I encountered, I never saw or read this play.
Milwaukee Shakespeare's tweaks stay true to Willy's voice, but infuse the plot with props and references that are unmistakably modern. Even the play-within-a-play during the last act is set to the tune of American Idol. Unlike some "updates" that seem terribly out of place in the Bard's world in other adaptations, these are blended so well that it's hard to imagine the play without them and believe that WS didn't have "Guitar Hero," blackberries and reality television readily at his disposal. And with pot references (and sight gags) worked so brilliantly into the action, one thinks that from a comedic standpoint, Mr. S just may have been the Judd Apatow of his time.
Of course in addition to the wonderful technical direction, the actors always do contribute to "selling" the play. This was my first Milwaukee Shakespeare experience and I was delightfully impressed at the spate of young actors involved in the company who clearly are learning from the older residents. While I love the Milwaukee Rep, I've seen many of the same faces there for the 10 years I've been here, so it was great to see trained but youthful interpretations.
And from someone who's spent some time on the couch vegging to TCM On Demand as of late, I appreciated the lead actress' interpretation of Katharine Hepburn meets Bette Davis.
Plus everyone on stage looked like they were genuinely having a good time.
While I was lucky enough to catch Love's Labour's Lost on a special $12 night (thank you Christina for the scoop!), I would totally go again for full price if I had time. I will be encouraging my friends to see this, and I encourage you, blog reader to go check it out before the run ends on October 5th.
p.s. I still owe posts on several of my August events. They may come soon.