I had been completely unaware that Atlanta is home to an excellent Shakespearean troupe - The Atlanta Shakespeare Company - that stages its productions at The New American Shakespeare Tavern in midtown. You show up a couple of hours before the show, eat some well-prepared British pub food, and digest your dinner whilst enjoying the Bard’s great works.
The show we saw was the final performance of Romeo and Juliet for the season, and the actors gave it their all. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening, despite knowing how the play ends. (If you’re unfamiliar with the story, I will just say that Shakespeare would have been a miserable failure at running a massage parlor: not a lot of happy endings.)
Yes, it is a tale with a tragic outcome, the kind of result one would expect from allowing a bunch of hormone-raddled teenagers to run around with sharp objects. But Shakespeare knew how to keep an audience’s interest despite the occasionally weighty subject matter; he was a master at peppering his plays with comic relief. Hundreds of years later, George Lucas would try to take a page from old Will’s playbook by inserting Jar Jar Binks into Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, with completely unsatisfying results. Shakespeare knew better. Not only are his comic characters not annoying, they’re often downright bawdy.
As Don Marquis observed circa 1916, writing as archy the cockroach,
coarseRough stuff, indeed. And over four centuries down the road, it’s still unmatched.
catches the crowd
the fish wife
and the laugh
of the horse
in bill s behalf
big bill s
he would chuckle
to hear such guff
and he liked
are the same
Adieu to Romeo - and now I wish
To find myself the room where I might pish. - Elisson