The second Bush administration begins today. Man, I need to accumulate some wealth…
A note of outrage on the leftie blogs I sometimes peruse is that Barack voted to confirm Condi Rice as Secretary of State yesterday. Therefore, the silly leftist logic goes, Barack is an evil sellout and has been all along. This is why we win elections you see. Rice is indeed an odious person, I’ve never seen any public figure lie, evade and distort with such an unflinching aura of moral rectitude before. But come on, do you really think a less odious person would get the job if she didn’t? Fight the battles you can win, fools. My man knows what he’s doing.
The cast of Hamlet also knows what it’s doing. It was a wonderful adrenaline pumping opening, and work I’m really proud of such as I’ve not felt since…well L3K, the last full length show I did. As usual, the critics are damned fools. This is distressing to me only in that I fear they are an obstacle to getting people to come to the shows I’m involved in. My old pal Nick Green from the mostly worthless but I read it every week anyway Chicago Reader talked about how “unthinkable” it was that the director Frank cut the player sequence from the show. While that sequence was nice and everything, its omission obviously wasn’t unthinkable, because you know, he thought it. He also said that period costumes were an “odd choice” for an otherwise no frills production. That’s just weird, and goes to show the alienation between the way critics and normal people think. What should we wear for no frills productions, jeans and t-shirts? I don’t know, he said some other stuff, but I’m not as motivated to eviscerate him as I did with his L3K review.
The guy I do want to eviscerate is Tom Williams, who runs what’s basically a gushing fansite called chicagocritic.com. He’s kind of like that Inside the Actors Studio guy in that he pretty much gushes over everything stupidly. I was inclined to like him once upon a time because he once singled my friend Tom Schorsch out for praise and I was living on the guy’s futon at the time, so I felt he was worthy of praise just for that. Just recently though he got into this epic scandal (there really aren’t that many scandals in Chicago theatre that I’m aware of) where he got caught plagiarizing stuff. He announced his retirement, but was apparently lying about that. Anyway, he was overheard to remark “Why in the world would they cast a Middle Easterner as Hamlet”? I don’t know, probably the same reason that medieval Scandanavians are speaking Elizabethan English. He went on to condemn the actors in our show (I escaped unscathed as far as I could tell) for speaking too fast, and concluded this was because we were too young and inexperienced to handle the majesty of Shakespeare’s language. He concluded that people “new to Shakespeare” would be okay with this but he having seen “major equity” productions knew the far superior variety. This is kind of counterintuitive to me because I would think if you’re familiar with the material you’re *more* likely to appreciate it when it’s spoken at a conversational pace (which is how we were directed) than when every syllable is e-nunce-i-a-ted like British grammar school. In the printed review he still commented on Bobby’s ethnicity, in a more underhanded way. He said he liked Bobby except that he slipped into “his Middle Eastern” accent sometimes. In point of fact, Bobby is Indian-American and speaks in a Midwestern American dialect.
What happened to the days when critics themselves were brilliant and entertaining writers, like Dorothy Parker and SJ Perelman? Maybe I need to be a critic and save the profession.
You know what? There is no “majesty” in Shakespeare’s language anymore than my language or yours. It’s English. And it’s about 75% the same now as it was then. Putting “the Bard” on a pedestal detracts from his true genius, which was an ability to speak to us across time, in words we recognize as our own. I like English, it’s cool. I wish the critics used it better.