Tag-team Shakespeare

Bard at the Bar

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Roger Hendricks Simon
The Roger Hendricks Simon Studio
West End Bar
Broadway at 114th Street (841-0204)
Equity showcase (closes June 24)
To be revived at Midtown International Theatre Festival (279-4200/www.ticketcentral.org)
Review by John Chatterton

Bards at the Bar is an ongoing tradition with Roger Hendricks Simon (who founded the Simon Studio 23 years ago), in which he mixes different scenes (and sometimes different actors playing the same character) in a Shakespearean kaleidoscope, usually performed in the back room at the West End Bar, near Columbia. Actors either morphed from one character to a completely different one, and kept on acting, or "tagged" other actors (sitting in the audience) to take over at a transition to another scene.

With the audience sitting around the outside of the room and a pillar in the middle, and lighting that faded the farther toward the center an actor went, traditional stage values were turned on their heads. All the actors made significant impacts when they were performing within, say, three feet of the audience. Some of the actors continued to create a big impression even when they had their backs turned and were standing in the middle of the room. Trying conditions such as these distinguish scene work from performance.

In particular, Marlene Villafane was consistently strong as Beatrice, Ariel, and Titania; Nancy Sirianni scored with Lady Macbeth; Frank DePasquale offered a nuanced First Gravedigger in an inspired version of the Hamlet scene, in which director Simon added an amusing third Gravedigger, in the form of a hand puppet operated by the Second Gravedigger; Joe Capone offered a compelling Oberon; Daniel Hendricks Simon was electrifying as Mercutio; Roger Hendricks Simon took the "stage" as Lear's Fool; and John Palmore hit the target repeatedly as Lear, Othello, and especially Jaques. All of these actors overcame the severe limitations of the room by physically enlarging their performances without losing the detail that made them interesting. (And they knew when to stand still and command attention!)

A few costumes (uncredited) helped distinguish the multitude of characters. The sketchy program forced audience members to ask Roger Simon for an informal who's who, which made for more mingling at the bar after the show.

Bard at the Bar returns as Bards at the Bar, using other playwrights in addition to Shakespeare. Watch www.simonstudio.com for more details.

(Also featuring Joe Jamrog, Jack Cornwell, J.J. Reap, Nicole McCree, Sean Rivera, Kevin Woods, Craig Durante, Jan Dykstra, Jeff Roches, Robert Carabello, Bob Adrian, Michael Alef, Carole Fletcher, Chet Carlin, Roy DelToro, Dawn McEwan, Sarah Strasser, Craig Gereghty, and Janee Trotman.)

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 0
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 0

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Copyright 2002 John Chatterton