Staging poetry is hard to do. Staging Shakespeare's epic erotic poem "Venus and Adonis" would seem very seductive: it is, after all, written by the greatest dramatist of them all. But pulling off this feat needs a proper context and a strong cast. In this production of Venus and Adonis by Here and Blue Coyote Theatre Group, the context seemed a little half-ready, and the cast didn't seem up to the challenge. Regardless, it did get a fluid and visually stunning staging from director Tim O'Leary and was a bold stab at Shakespeare's first published piece.
A group of kids (Kyle Ancowitz, Robert Buckwalter, Julie Galdieri, Kristin Proctor) tell each other the story of Venus and Adonis. Venus (Marnie Klar) tries to seduce Adonis (Daniel Hendricks Simon), but Adonis is more interested in hunting boar. When Adonis rejects Venus, it makes her crazier and more desperate for his attention. Finally, the whole thing comes to a tragic end when Adonis is killed by a boar.
What was an interesting premise quickly became inconsistent. There was an older ensemble member (the one true standout in the cast, Hanna Hayes), who was dressed in Greek attire and a cane while the others in the ensemble were dressed in sneakers and jeans. Also, it was never clear what the stakes were. The men made goo-goo eyes at the girls, and the girls coyly looked at the boys, but no one really seemed affected by Shakespeare's story.
Regardless, Tim O'Leary, who directed last year's remarkable Not I, Act Without Words II, and A Piece of a Monologue, worked magic with the movement and the fluidity of the piece. All the
actors moved about the stage with authority and grace. Perhaps if the meaning of the piece were clearer, the actors might have turned in some fine performances. Klar's Venus was believable as a coquettish seductress, although any stakes in seducing Adonis were unclear. When Adonis
died, Venus seemed more annoyed than at a loss. Simon's Adonis was enjoyable in his fear of this much taller woman, although he was entirely miscast. The ensemble were barely passable as the
storytellers sighing and smiling at the audience; Hayes walked away with the show with no more than a few lines and a true stage presence.
The set, which consisted of green sheets and pillows by Jen
Moeller, gave the production a lushness; the costumes, also
by Moeller, were excellent. The lighting design, by Colin K.
Bills, was really beautiful as well.
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Copyright 2000 Andrés J. Wrath