In theory, Roger Hendricks Simon had a terrific idea: bring acting students into a relaxed, convivial setting and allow them to experiment with the works of William Shakespeare. In practice, Bard @ the Bar probably does work well when performed in the less formal atmosphere of a pub (provided there isn’t an important game on the tube), but when moved into a bare studio theatre with no setting, street clothes for costumes, and the harsh, unforgiving lights of overhead fluorescents, it became a creepy, voyeuristic journey into something akin to a dance or music recital by children who aren’t quite ready for the spotlight.
There was no denying the commitment, ambition and raw ability of the performers, or their obvious love of the material. Every one had his or her moment center stage, performing scenes, monologues, and soliloquies from such staples as Romeo & Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, etc, etc, etc. But, out of context of the works they were from and performed without any clear through-line unique to this particular event, these scenes quickly became a confusing jumble of words, and the whole enterprise smacked more of classroom exercises than finished performances. This was nowhere more apparent than when Simon himself took the stage and upstaged his own students with the natural, fluid expertise of his own performance. The disparity between master and student was all too startlingly clear, and while more than a few were able to hold their own with the material, most were left hanging by their own inexperience through no real fault of their own. It was impossible not to feel for the performers, even to root for them, but by the same token they really shouldn’t have been exposed so nakedly and so publicly at this juncture in their training.
At least the program listed (separately) only the names of the performers and the titles of the works excerpted, without matching actors to works, and so therefore it was next to impossible to know who was performing what. This anonymity proved a mixed blessing, vexing for the more experienced actors and a boon to the tyros.
(Featuring [some] of these performers: Joe Jamrog; J.J. Reap; Wendy Peace; Sean Rivera; John Palmore; Craig Durante; Robert Carabello; Dan Simon; Joe Capone; Carole Fletcher; Frank DePasquale; Kathleen Schlemmer; Dunn Septimus; Lori Mollo; Jessica Dunton; Ann Cherie; Lauren Nelson; Kathryn Downie; Carrie Ellman; Elizabeth Carroll; Hayley Coulson; Jennifer Schneiderman; Keith Malek; Charles Turner; Cynthia Granville.)
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Copyright 2002 Doug DeVita