Sunday, April 21, 2013
Shakespeare Upset Victor Over Vegas
Shakespeare in Vegas, a consistently smart, funny and engaging creation of Playwright Suzanne Bradbeer is staged jointly by Dreamcatcher Rep and Playrights Theatre at Oakes Center in Summit, NJ. The structure leans slyly on three Shakespeare classics, but it's really just another instance of a valiant man (or mobster) with a dream (or an obsession?) of building a fitting shrine to Shakespeare (or a large scale model??) in a special place (Vegas???), to honor the memory of his Sardinian grandmother, (or her martyred donkey????). Laura Ekstrand shines all night as Cleopatra, the Nurse (well, maybe Juliet), Lady Macbeth and Margot- a veteran actor who's gone from sweet ingenue to aging, sometimes bitter and still basically unknown veteran. Margot finds her way back to personal integrity, and maybe even romance, as the star in a surreal Shakespearian Theater struggling for survival in that bastion of culture and accountability - Las Vegas. Eli Ganias, as Tony, is a one note goodfella for a few scenes, and then keeps digging deeper as his character expands. Rachael Lee and Jessica O'Hara-Baker are having almost as much fun as they provide to the audience while playing a whacky stripper and a Hooters' heiress, both excited by their shot at real acting, but not quite getting the whole Shakespeare thing.
Even without the Shakespeare backing, there's a multi-level plot here that is far more than serviceable. The real treat is the dialogue, especially the barrage of one liners launched by Margot, who knows her theater and her Shakespeare, at a supporting case who knows Vegas.
Only one day left to catch this in Summit, but with any luck it may turn up off Broadway. OK, I realize Summit is not on Broadway, but I'm thinking lower Manhattan. This is a new show, workshopped through Dreamcatcher and Playwrights; it's already too good to end and it might get even better if it can find a venue.