Reviewed by Lyssa Mandel
Shakespeare may have been accused of many questionable things—a dirty mind, a penchant for gender-benders, easy Rom Com jokes—but he was always above board and a genius in terms of form. The same cannot be said, unfortunately, for the latest homage to the Bard, LIVE!… at the Cockpit: Will at Work with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a hammy hodgepodge of scenes from “backstage” at the Globe. The conceit eschews a plot in favor of a collection of moving Polaroids from the era, but without a through-line to connect the scenes, the piece feels incomplete. It also smacks of a less well-composed, less clever Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) in its attempt to be casually irreverent and off-the-cuff about the Bard's prolific life.
Longtime Shakespeare nerds will have no problem picking up the inside jokes referring to the language or characters from particular plays in the canon, but audience members who aren’t familiar with Will’s work might be lost. There are also, however, inside jokes for anyone who has worked in a low-budget theater, especially in college and especially Shakespeare ala college: dork-tacular play-jousting, the constant post-performance drinking (and the creative work that always ensues at the bar), and the restlessness and improvisation spawned by the boredom of filling time backstage during a long show. The effect, along with the uncomfortably long, silent scene changes, is discomfiting and awkward at best.
The fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants feeling of LIVE!… extends to the playbill. There wasn’t one: just a live, cabaret-style introduction of each actor at the top of the show. In fact, it’s not even clear who wrote the show, or if it is, fittingly, an improv-based collaboration of the ensemble. Kudos to Dave Warth, who plays the Bard himself and brings the brooding, impatient and cynical air of a playwright frustrated with his resources to each scene. If only he and his “men” could connect the dots of their sketchy ideas and turn this collection of scenes into a more cohesive whole, they may have something on their hands that would make the real Bard chuckle in his grave.
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.