Friday, July 19, 2013

Park yourself in front of Shakespeare

Municipal Parking Lot
at Ludlow and Broome Streets
(c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
No, it's not.

It's a theater.

Because I say it is. 

And so does The Drilling Company whose open-air "Shakespeare in the Parking Lot" production of Cymbeline plays out across the asphalt now through July 27.

But as muggy summer evening gives way to night, and a few SUVs pull into parking spaces, the magic charm starts to wear off just a bit. 

But not before Hamilton Clancy's talented ensemble, the Lower East Side vibe and Con Edison ("Thanks for the street light," says Clancy) conspire to build up that charm over a straight two-hours and fifteen-minutes of charged action.

Keldrick Crowder as Cymbeline, King of Britain, with audience
(photo by Lee Wexler/Images for Innovation)

Lightsabers at the ready
L-r: Mark Byrne, Skylar Gallun and David Sitler
(photo by Lee Wexler/Images for Innovation)
Cheekily anachronistic elements--like characters wielding lightsabers or snacking on a bag of chips--appear to be remnants of time-shifting ideas Clancy had for this production. But their appearance in this vestpocket of the urban everyday has a funny way of making the players look like neighborhood kids gathered to put on a show. In this case, pretty sophisticated, highly trained kids. But kids, nonetheless, making do with their makeshift platform stages and curtains and props. And Clancy's actors--notably Andy Markert as comically apoplectic Cloten and the electric Mark Byrne as Guiderius--foreground a heady playfulness in Shakespeare's overstuffed plot that wins out over other elements like romance and horror. 

Amanda Dillard as Imogen, the princess
(photo by  Lee Wexler/Images for Innovation)
Playing Shakespeare outdoors and unamplified runs the risk of losing choice words to the air. Some of Cymbeline's performers were largely inaudible when out of range. Amanda Dillard (Imogen) delivered nearly everything at irritating screech pitch. But Philip Rossi's Posthumus Leonatus and Lukas Raphael's Iachimo, the two enemies, have wonderful voices that project just enough while retaining suppleness and subtlety. The same can be said for Byrne. For the show's vocal champion, though, see Keldrick Crowder, Cymbeline himself, who has a voice like solar wind and body language to match. If you go, you might catch a glimpse of Crowder "offstage," practicing what looks like qigong and silently mouthing his upcoming lines before heading back for the final scene. All part of the fun!

Admission is free, though donations are happily accepted. Bring cold drinks and fans. Come early for a good seat, or bring your own chair. And, no worries: Friendly nearby bars and restaurants welcome you to make a pit stop, if need be.

Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm through July 27. For information, click here or call 212-873-9050.

For information on The Drilling Company's upcoming "Shakespeare in the Parking Lot" production of Richard3, click here.

Municipal Parking Lot
Ludlow and Broome Streets, Manhattan (one block south of Delancey Street)

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