Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shakespeare in yo' face

A large ramp extended down from the second tier to the promenade floor of the Duke Family Performance Hall inside Davidson’s Knobloch Campus Center. We sat on the side of the ramp Saturday, waiting for the start of Shakespeare’s “Pericles.”

I hadn’t planned to attend the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production, but co-worker Kathy Haight raved so much about seeing one of the productions last week that I wanted to see one for myself.

On Saturday, I understood why Kathy liked it so much. For slightly more than three hours, I felt as if I were in the play. Standing on the promenade, I never knew when a gun-toting thug, drag queen or king would come storming past me. My only complaint was the length. I don’t like sitting through two-hour movies, so a three-hour play is way too long.

“Pericles” isn’t “to be or not to be”-style Shakespeare. Although I did get lost sometimes when the griot was narrating the story, for the most part, “Pericles” was accessible to low-brow theater fans like me. It tells the story of a Pericles, the king of Tyre, who fled his country, found love and lost it, and thought his daughter was dead.

Instead of everything happening on one stage, the play unfolds throughout the promenade. Audience members standing in the promenade scooted around to see the action and to avoid getting in the actor’s way. There was fencing, a man being thrown ashore, a brothel and an angel descending from the sky. Actors pointed guns at us and at times spoke directly to us.

It was theater in a way that I've never experienced before, and can't wait to experience again. (If the play is shorter.)