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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 21, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 25
Subversive Shakespeare - Tom Stoppard uses two Bard classics to explore communication and censorship
Arts & Entertainment
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Subversive Shakespeare - Tom Stoppard uses two Bard classics to explore communication and censorship

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

DOGG'S HAMLET/CAHOOT'S MACBETH
SOUND THEATRE COMPANY
Through June 23


Sound Theatre Company mostly produces plays in the summer months, a time when many of the stages around town that rent space have more flexible openings. Many of the company's shows are in the downstairs theater at the Armory (formerly known as the Center House) at Seattle Center. Such is the case with STC's newest work, two one-act plays by Tom Stoppard that comprise a complete evening of theater: Dogg's Hamlet and Cahoot's Macbeth.

These two one-acts include strange moments of created language, which might be referred to as 'Dogg.' Dogg is regular English, but not with its regular meanings. So, for example, 'asparagus' doesn't mean the vegetable, it means 'truck.' In fact, much of the first act, while the audience sees a play clearly centered in a British boarding school where the students are preparing to perform Shakespeare's Hamlet, it's almost like visiting a foreign country. You won't be able to understand a lot of the casual interactions between the characters, until the actual Shakespearean lines are spoken.

Then, it's almost a relief to hear the Shakespeare! At least it's English you can understand. Often, Shakespeare's language is perceived as difficult, but Stoppard has created an effect whereby it's so hard to interpret the English words the characters say that Shakespeare's words end up feeling easier.

The most fun part of the piece happens when a delivery driver named Easy (Luke S. Walker) comes to deliver pieces of the set and speaks regular English to the kids in the school. He, too, hears regular English words, but clearly can't communicate with the students.

It's a slight piece, done nicely, and it's fun to watch adults play the kids of the school. The trio of Fox Rain Matthews, Matt Fulbright, and Noah Duffy (as a girl) bring the most joy.

TOIL AND TROUBLE
The second act appears completely different from the first, in the beginning. A group of actors is preparing to perform Macbeth in the living room of an apartment in cold-war-era Czechoslovakia. They are interrupted by an officious police inspector who thinks what they are doing is subversive. As that act moves along, suddenly Easy appears, and this time he is speaking Dogg. The actors 'catch' the language and begin speaking it themselves, confounding the inspector (a nicely supercilious Robert Hinds).

Without knowing that Stoppard was born in Czechoslovakia or knowing much about totalitarian regimes, the plays might be harder to identify with. But the suppression of art and thought in the second play makes the setup of the first play much more essential to the evening, and creates a unique experience of the interplay of language and freedom. Stoppard also cleverly uses the Shakespearean lines to emphasize the theme he is presenting.

Matt Fulbright and Elinor Gunn acquit themselves well in the second act as Macbeth and Lady, and Caitlin Frances holds command as the hostess of the apartment, showing clearly the distress and outrage at the governmental interference. Director Teresa Thuman masterfully supervises the chaos of the final scene of Cahoot's when the actors succeed in flummoxing the inspector. For more information, go to www.soundtheatrecompany.org or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/362445, or call 1-800-838-3006.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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