Review: AU Rude Mechanicals variety show

“Dystopia” provides viewers with a contemporary look at five Shakespearean scenes

Review: AU Rude Mechanicals variety show

Cast of AU Rude Mechanicals Variety Show: Dystopia's Julius Caesar

A long walk in the dark led me to the Kreeger Building, the venue for AU Rude Mechanical’s Variety Show: Dystopia. Situated in the back of campus, Kreeger is typically one of the buildings that few students realize exists, much less can find; however, as home to many of the Rude Mechanical’s productions, it is a spot to keep in mind.

The troupe, led by Executive Director Elizabeth Morton, performs William Shakespeare’s works, often with modern and progressive twists. The variety show, a yearly tradition, consists of scenes from “Julius Caesar,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “Henry VIII,” “Measure for Measure” and “Taming of the Shrew,” each with their own separate directors and casts.

Before the lights fell, Artistic Director Perry Scalfano explained that the reimagined scenes focus on “perceptions of manipulation through dystopian control.” Perhaps the best manifestation of Scalfano’s vision is actor Matt Miyagi. Appearing in each scene, Miyagi serves as the only constant: a meta representation of artistic authority, removing dissenters and attempting to reinvent narrative through violence and control.

Of the five scenes presented, each feature dramatic recreations, often divergent from the spirit of the original text. The opening scene from “Julius Caesar,” directed by Tristan Salvon-Harman, is captivating. Daniel Patton and Danielle Gallo steal the scene as Brutus and Antony, respectively. Brutus’ soliloquy may not have convinced the Romans, but Patton conveys a strong sense of honor to the audience. Gallo in particular is a foreboding, commanding presence. Although short in stature, her appeal to her countrymen is wrenching with spirited ethos and pathos.

In “All’s Well That Ends Well,” director Peter Mikhail’s careful choreography adds intensity to the scene. While it may be a less familiar Shakespearean work, Terrence Kane as Parolles gives a solid performance that could capture anyone’s interest. Although his face is covered for a large portion of the scene, perhaps it is a testament to his acting ability that he is able to entice viewers with merely his physicality and projection.

Adina Marx’s “Henry VIII” scene features a cast that meshes well together. Julia Harris as the emotional, sympathetic and strong-willed Catherine grips the audience. Sinister Campeius, played by AU Rude Mechanicals veteran Ryan Guerra, is also a stand out, pressuring the ambivalent Henry (Joshua Bush) to turn against Catherine with vigor and intensity.

In a break from the dramatic, Nathaniel Caspari’s “Measure for Measure” offers a darkly comedic interpretation of the scene. Walking down the aisle to foreboding music, Jess McGowan as Abhorson is a striking presence. Sam Megill, as the disheveled and unravelling Pompey, and McGowan’s interactions are vital to the scene. Megill in particular guides the performances, embracing the physical humor of the role and elevating the scene to a new level.

The closing scene from “Taming of the Shrew” is good enough reason to purchase a ticket for the show -- maybe even two tickets. Directed by Nicole Vaughan, its reimagining of the light comedy is intense and unrelenting. Ben Feder as Petruchio is an actor to watch, for there are many more great roles for him to play. A sadistic, booming presence, he both terrifies and entrances. Bending to Petruchio’s abuse, Maggie Shircliff as Katherina is phenomenal, allowing the audience to also feel the abuse as she feels it. Her visceral acting is realistic and comes instinctively.

With a runtime of approximately an hour and 30 minutes, the Variety Show: Dystopia provides an escape into a frightening world; yet the most frightening part is that this world often looks much like our own. Probing into our most dark and dangerous emotions, Scalfaro’s artistic development deserves to be commended for its brooding creativity. Surely there are even greater things ahead for him.

Kreeger may not be the most ideal space for the Rude Mechanicals. In fact, it is far from it. However, the actors are talented and the direction is superb. Hopefully they will be given a more expansive venue in which to perform in the future, for these young people deserve the most spotlight possible.

The AU Rude Mechanicals Variety Show: Dystopia is in the Kreeger Auditorium from October 6 - 8 at 8:30 pm. Tickets are $7 for members of the AU community and $10 for general admission.

Note: The show contains depictions of violence, gore and domestic abuse.

Naomi Zeigler is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and is the Opinion Editor for The Eagle.

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