Thursday, September 1, 2011

Misanthropy and Gender-Bending (at Stratford)

Stratford's Summer Shows!

First off, I have to mention that I really admire the Stratford Theare for offering such affordable student rates. If you're 16-29 tickets are only $25! Also, concessions are not nearly as inflated as theatres downtown Toronto (i.e. $2 for a coffee or a chocolate bar, instead of $3-$4). Besides, Stratford is such a cute, scenic little town. If you have the time, it's well worth the day trip outside the GTA.

Misanthrope by Moliรจre:
Viewed: Sept. 1, 2011

Hilarious! Who doesn't love an overly honest, cynical, misanthropic protagonist these days? If you enjoy watching House, and Hugh Laurie's portrayal of him, Dr. House is essentially the modern day token misanthrope who the audience seems to love for his brutal honesty, and whose coarseness is portrayed as more humorous than offensive to the viewing audience. Perhaps that is why I carried a warm affection for the obtuse Alceste (I have a soft spot for the G. House). Alceste, the misanthrope, is critical of 17th century French society for its false niceties and rules of courtesy and social conduct. He is also critical of his very flirtatious beloved. However, his insight and honesty turns into an irrational jealousy of her having several other suitors... only until the audience realizes his suspicions were absolutely true! It was beautifully acted, and very enjoyable. The costumes were stunning, as was the set -- with large chandeliers and authentic looking furniture. Everything was slightly modernized, contemporary to the 18th century rather than the 17th when the play was written. Misanthrope is definitely worth seeing. I highly recommend it!

Twelfth Night by Shakespeare:
Viewed: Aug. 4th, 2011

Always a favourite play of mine, but this interpretation was truly spectacular. The twins were dressed identically in white linen suits. The scene of Malvolio's descent into madness while the disguised fool Feste terrifies him in his cell had the visual slickness of a modern illusionist show. The costumes were fascinating, with some characters dressing in Victorian dresses, suits, and formal attire, while other characters were dressed in entirely contemporary clothing, there was once a 1920's attired tennis scene in Olivia's court, all mixed with the one ridiculous yellow stocking-ed, cross gartered absolutely antiquated Malvolio in exaggerated renaissance attire. Perhaps the more antiquated the costume, the more far removed we ought to feel from that character. When a character is dressed in the lavish robes of Victorian nobility,amongst people in contemporary attire, they ought to seem all the more foreign and ridiculous to the contemporary viewing audience.

There were also modern stage props (a refrigerator and kitchen) and a glass case and a straight jacket to serve as the prison cell for Malvolio when he "goes mad." Perhaps the different mix of costumes from different eras are meant to visually connect the audience on a more personal level to certain characters--we are supposed to associate with the jovial servants, as well as with the contemporary and eloquent protagonist Viola ("Cesario" while in drag/disguise) as she sorts out the madness between Duke Orsino's love for Olivia, as well as Olivia's love for Cesario.

The music was beautiful. The folk songs told by Feste the fool were covered with a modern, sound, particularly the closing musical finale. Sometimes I catch myself singing "the rain.... the rain it raineth everyday" with the subtly Caribbean sound of steel drums and light background sounds humming in my head. An excellent show, and a must see!

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