As if the play alone weren't enough to dampen my disposition, I had apparently stumbled upon some sort of crazy "power Shakespeare" workout where one loses weight while watching guys act in tights at 85 degrees (the theater was freakin' Africa hot, it was insane). But hey this is L.A., we're innovative in our workouts (we have strip aerobics, karoke spin and something called bellydance boot camp). And I love to sweat, I really do. Like when I'm at the gym or being interrogated by the feds in an undisclosed RDU holding cell (happened in 1997), but I don't like to sweat when I'm at the theater. It's tacky.
I feel compelled to make it clear that my unpleasant evening at the theater was in no way the fault of the actors. They were a cast of youngsters earnestly giving "Merchant" the ol' college try...and therein lies the problem: young actors should not be allowed to perform Shakespeare without proper adult supervision. These actors were all under the age of twenty-five and that's just unacceptable. No one under the age of thirty should be allowed to perform Shakespeare professionally. It's criminal negligence to let them. We ID people when they buy alcohol and cigarettes, and so we should just as rigorously ID people when they threaten to bore us with Shakespeare, too. Now, while watching Shakespeare (even poorly acted Shakespeare) won't cause cancer or a car accident, it will most certainly make your butt hurt. A lot. And that just blows.
I whole-heartedly endorse Shakespeare being studied and performed in college. In fact, I believe it to be one of the special ingredients that make up the "college experience" (like threesomes and Raman noodles), but it needs to be left behind with the beer bongs and the Birkenstocks once you're handed your diploma.
Why would anyone even want to see Shakespeare in the first place? I only went because my date had already committed us to it (and committed my $50 for the tickets). She and I are not going out again. Not only does that lunatic like Shakespeare, but she also chews with her mouth open. She is not to be trusted. But back to the point, why would anyone want to see Shakespeare? Four hundred years ago, his words made sense. They were hip, they were happening. Now? They're pseudo-rhythmic babble. The first time I saw Jodie Foster in "Nell," I thought she was performing Shakespeare until half way through and I realized she had simply been raised by wolves (or muskrats, or some other kind of animal). "Hay tay in the wind, Miss Chickabee." That's a quote from "Nell." "O the very casques That did affright the air at Agincourt?" That's a quote from "Henry V." Both are gibberish.
Shakespeare's works are important to understand what life was like back in those days. But how crazy would it be if four hundred years from now, civilizations were studying our culture through the writings of Trey Parker and Matt Stone? What if the unabridged works of "South Park" became the standard to which all-future artwork were set? It could happen. Nobody in Shakespeare's day thought he would be considered one of the greatest writers of all-time.
Make no mistake; I fully acknowledge the brilliance of William Shakespeare's work. His stories are, indeed, some of the best in recorded history. But that's where they belong, in a museum of recorded history (like say, the Smithsonian). I'm supposed to see another play this weekend called "The Larkbird." This one should be much more to my liking, it's your standard, run-of-the-mill drama about Hawaiian natives with leprosy falling in love (I'm not making this up, either).
Stay safe and stay tuned...