Mondo Andronicus and the Grand Guignol: A Blood Splattering Opening Night.

The Grand Guignol

Saturday I saw the opening night performance of Mondo Andronicus  by The Molotov Theatre Group. Before I give a review of the play, let me explain a little bit about what Mondo Andronicus is.

What they have done is taken Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s most shocking and violent play, and performed it in the style of a Grand Guignol. The Grand Guignol is defined in the “literary Dictionary” as:

Grand Guignol [grahn gween‐yol], a popular French form of melodrama featuring bloody murders, rapes, and other sensational outrages, presented in lurid and gruesome detail…The term is now often applied to horror movies…”

I think this explanation is most appropriate, since it defines Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus to a tee. As a matter of fact if you look up Grand Guignol in Wikipedia it even mentions Titus Andronicus in the very first paragraph.

I’d seen Titus performed at the Blackfriars by the American Shakespeare Center during the fall 2009 season, and found the play, even as performed by the ASC, somewhat shocking. After which I read the play, and then found myself ruminating on the Evils in Shakespeare’s plays by focusing on  Aaron the Moor from Titus in one of my blog posts.

The Playbill Cafe

The play takes place in the small 60 person theater at the Playbill Cafe in Washington D.C. Dark goth metal was playing over the sound system as I found my seat. The crowd filing in after me appeared to be from every walk of life, including the “Mom and Pop” next door neighbor type, to some theater people I’d recognized from other Shakespearean productions. I sat in the second row by the aisle, and started talking to some people around me. Someone joked, that if I was lucky someone would sit in front of me so I wouldn’t get splatter with too much blood.

Mondo Andronicus

Then the lights went down, and a new dark chorus of music spilled from the speakers. Titus played by the “Goremeister” Alex Zavistovich appeared on stage and the play commenced. I don’t want to give away the details of the performance. That’s for you to see, if you’re brave enough. I will say that the acting was amazingly better than I thought it would be. I expected “Shock Theater” camp, and what I got was a very serious and professional production of Titus. They had condensed Titus down to 60 minutes to its barest core, stripping out much of the text to focus on the emotional darkness within the play. It was raw, it was brutal, and it was severe.

Being as close to the stage as I was, I could see the sweat on an actors face. So when I tell you that JaBen Early, who played Aaron, contorted his face to look diabolical, I mean he looked like pure evil. And Jenny Donovan, who looked so beautiful as Lavinia in the beginning, showed the definition of utter despair in the hoplessness she displayed in her eyes towards the end.  All I could imagine was they must have had an acting coach that focused exclusively on presenting our darkest horrors though facial expression.

Each moment of savagery and brutality were presented in a twisted and realistic manner, using stagecraft to make these acts of violence appear as real as possible. Blood flowed freely, and in one disgusting act, I felt the drops of splattered blood on my face, (a few drops mind you, don’t worry, no one was drenched).

So’ after reading this review, I’ll let you decide if this play is recommended for you or not. Mondo Andronicus  is a play that focuses on the darkness of the human soul, and takes the literal text of Titus Andronicus to it’s most extreme, realistic, and brutal interpretation.

Mondo Andronicus, now thru April 3. See their website for details: The Molotov Theatre Group

Fun Facts about Mondo Andronicus, opening this weekend.

Alex from the Molotov Theater and I had sent a few emails back and forth, so I told him If he  sent me any fun facts about the performance I would post it. So here it is:

Fun Fact Number #236: In Mondo Andronicus…  (there’s) an average of one heinous piece of physical violence every four minutes.

What can I say, we support all types of Shakespeare here at Maryland Shakespeare. Particularly the smaller company’s.

Link: http://www.molotovtheatre.org/current.html

March 6, 2010 – April 3, 2010 Wednesdays through Sundays at 8 PM

The Theatre at 1409 Playbill Cafe
1409 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005

Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide – 4) Listen to the audio drama

Okay…

I’ve just added a new section to the Layman’s Guide covering Audio Dramas, particularly by Arkangel Productions. I’ve had some good input on this guide and have made some changes. So let me know what you think, cause the internet is my editor

Keep in mind, it’s still not complete.

“at every step I feel a deeper and deeper understanding. I know I could take a Shakespeare class first and learn everything they think I should know. But this way I’m learning by listening and watching, and thus able to form my own opinions. I remember reading that the Winter’s Tale is considered one of Shakespeare’s lesser works. Really? I love that play. I’m glad I read that opinion after seeing the play.” – The layman’s Guide.

Thanks

Link:  Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide

“Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide” updated with “Step 3) Watch the DVD”

Wow, creating  this “Laymans Guide” is taking more time then I thought it would. I had started Step 3 two days ago, had it typed up for the most part, then lost half of it and had to start over again.

I love watching Shakespeare on DVD, the section “Step 3″ describes the methods I use to track down the best versions to watch. I hope you find it helpful.

Heres the link: Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide

Mondo Andronicus: Opening Night is this Weekend March 6th in DC

By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes”, and it’s not Macbeth. Mondo Andronicus which I posted about earlier last month opens this Saturday March 6th. Check out their site for details… Once again this is not for the faint of heart.

Link: The Molotov Group: Mondo Andronicus

American Shakespeare Center Faces Budget Cuts

Link: VCA faces huge budget cuts

“On Feb. 21, the Virginia House of Delegates’ Appropriations Committee voted, 15-7, to cut state funding for the Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA) by 50 percent in 2010-11 and to eliminate the agency altogether as of July 1, 2011.”

This is really bad news for the American Shakespeare Center considering they received $96,000 last year, which is about 15% of their budget. And they are hoping to get that same amount this year.

Now I may not be the brightest bulb on the tree, so correct me if I’m wrong. But I think $96,000 is probably nothing compared to how much money the Blackfriars, and the American Shakespeare Center bring into Staunton each year, in tourist and taxes.  I’d never have even heard of Staunton if it wasn’t for the Blackfriars. To me it would have been just another small college town. But now after going to the Blackfriars several times a year over the past few years, I’ve come to love the town of Staunton. We usually will arrive on Friday night at the Microtel, and catch a play on Saturday or Sunday. The rest of the time is spent shopping in the town, or hiking around the outlying areas.

I know it seems like an easy thing to eliminate the arts any time there’s a state budget crunch, but I really do believe it will end up costing the community in the long run.

If your heading up to Staunton any time soon, here’s an blog I posted a while ago with some tips:  Staunton VA, and the American Shakespeare Center. One of the best hidden spots in the world.

The Shakespeare Factory Players: The Comedy of Errors. I would see this twice!

The Shakespeare Factory Players: The Comedy of Errors.

Why did I wait to see this show so late in their season. I’d have loved to have seen this performance a second time, just because of the ear to ear smile I left out of the theater with. Part of what made this such fun is that The Shakespeare Factory Players use “original staging practices”. This means the lights stay on, minimal sets are used, they play multiple parts, and they interact with the audience. Which is how Shakespeare would have done it back in the day’s of yore. This is my favorite type of theater, particularly with Shakespeare’s comedies as I am so fond of saying, “Shakespeare didn’t set out to write some high art to be viewed at a distance in some museum. He was writing “Three’s Company” for the masses.”

Which is what I felt about this performance. They completely played it up for the masses. This was the funnest version of The Comedy of Errors I have seen to date.  A big part of that was the fact that the actors all seemed to be enjoying themselves way to much, and looked like they had a lot of fun being up there.  They had an infectious humor that started on the stage and spread out to the audience. The slapstick was well timed, and they definitely didn’t shy away from the bawdiness. They also came off the stage, interacted with the audience, and pulled us into their own improbable world, letting us escape our own for those 2 plus hours.

Now mind you The Shakespeare Factory is not a huge theater company. They’re a small company doing something they obviously love. And a growing company that can use all the help they can get. So’ do yourself a favor, and go check them out and have some fun yourself. Remember, just showing up will help to keep Shakespeare alive in our area. And if you can donate a little more to The Shakespeare Factory, you’d be helping all of us out in the end.

So please free to visit them at: http://theshakespearefactory.com/

Do you know how many Shakespeare plays you have to choose from in the DC area this week? (A shocking answer!)

Do you know how many Shakespeare plays you have to choose from in the DC area this week? SIX!
How cool is it to live in the Washington DC area where you get the choice of SIX Shakespeare plays performing at any one time! And at prices starting at the bargain basement price of $15.00.

Here’s the shows you can catch this week:
Richard II: (DC) Shakespeare Theater Company
Henry V: (DC) Shakespeare Theater Company
Comedy of Errors: (Baltimore MD)  The Shakespeare Factory Players
Measure for Measure: (MD) Baltimore Shakespeare Festival
And a little further out, but well worth the trip
Twelfth Night: (VA) Blackfriars Playhouse Staunton, VA
Henry VI, Part 2: (VA) Blackfriars Playhouse Staunton, VA

I’m looking forward to catching the The Shakespeare Factory Players for the first time this Saturday (Feb. 20th), performing The Comedy of Errors at the amazingly low price of $15.  I’ll also be getting my tickets within the next couple of days  to see Henry VI  at my favorite theater the Blackfriars Playhouse  in Staunton.

See the Marylandshakespeare.com calendar for more details on these and other up coming events.

Shakespeare Radio Theater Recorded Live in Washington DC

Now this sounds cool, I stumbled onto a group called  Lean and Hungry Theater that performs live Shakespeare here in Washington D.C. But here’s the cool part,  “Actors read and record the plays in front of a live audience, with live sound effects and live original music. The recordings are then available as a podcast, Webcast, broadcast, and/or audio CD. “
They just did “A Winters Tale” this last December (2009), and prior to that they did “Twelfth Night,”. This year they have “The Merchant of Venice” scheduled for June 4 and 5, 2010 which I will add to our calendar.

I accidently stumbled onto them while doing a Google search and really wish I’d known about it last year. If you know of anything else like this, that’s Shakespeare related, drop us a note so we can pass it on.

Please feel free to visit to their site at http://www.leanandhungrytheater.com where you can check out audio samples and see their schedule for up coming plays.

DISCOUNTED TICKETS $25 Shakespeare Theatre Company: Richard II and HENRY V (I got mine!)

Just got this email below from the Shakespeare  Theatre Company and  snagged 2 seats to see Henry V in Row B for 50.00 for Valentines day! This will be my first time checking out this company, and what a great play to start with. I’d love to see the Richard II also, but that would imply that I’m made of money instead of a rabid Shakespeare fan.  Not to mention my schedule is all kinds of messed up.

(Also Don’t forget  The Shakespeare Factory his doing The Comedy of Errors also this Saturday for $15.00)

2010 Blizzard White Sale – all tickets $25!

Escape the snow with two of Shakespeare’s most famous and exciting history plays. As part of our 2010 Blizzard White Sale, tickets to either show are just $25 each Richard II, tonight (February 11) at 8 p.m. or Henry V, Sunday (February 14) at 2 p.m.

Offer is valid for online sales only:

Tonight: Richard II – $25 Tickets
Sunday Matinee: Henry V – $25 Tickets

Offer valid online only. Subject to availability and cannot be combined with any other offer. All sales are final, no refunds or exchanges.


Shakespeare Theatre Company
Administrative Offices
516 8th Street SE
Washington, DC 20003-2834

For tickets call 202.547.1122
or visit ShakespeareTheatre.org

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