Tag Archives: William Shakespeare

Macbeth Play Review

The wanting and/or keeping of political power is a story that is as old as human history. William Shakespeare‘s tragedy Macbeth has been told countless times over the centuries.

The latest adaptation of this play can be seen at the Classic Stage Company in New York City. Stepping into the shoes of the power hungry general Macbeth and his equally power hungry wife Lady Macbeth are IRL married couple Corey Stoll and Nadia Bowers. As they claw their way up the ladder of power, they leave a train of bloodshed, madness, murder and destruction in their wake.

This plays brilliant and timeless. As the lead couple, Stoll and Bowers are enthralling. It’s almost like passing by a car accident on the highway. As much as you want to look away, it is impossible not to. In addition to the magnetic lead actors, I very much appreciated the non traditional casting of female performers in roles that are traditionally played by men.

I recommend it.

Macbeth is playing at the Classic Stage Company at 136 East 13th Street in New York City until December 15th. Check the website for showtimes and tickets.

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Filed under Broadway Play Review, New York City, Politics, William Shakespeare

All Is True Movie Review

When we talk about legendary men such as William Shakespeare, we speak of them as if they are icons, instead of human beings who have become icons over time.

In the new movie, All Is True, William Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film) is dealing with the twin troubles of the fire that destroyed the original Globe Theatre and mourning the loss of his son.

But returning home for a little r&r is not going to be so easy. Though Shakespeare receives a visit from his old friend, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (Ian McKellen), this is the easiest of the relationships with those around him. His wife, Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench) feels put upon by the years of emotional and physical distance between them. His eldest daughter, Susanna (Kathryn Wilder) is going through a rough patch in her marriage. His younger daughter Judith (Lydia Wilson) rages against the injustices that women in her era experience on a day to day basis.

Branagh is an old hand at Shakespeare. His career has been built upon the life and the work of this film’s subject. What I liked about this film is that is presents Shakespeare as a human being, warts and all. His Shakespeare is not a young man at the height of his career, but an older man whose better days are behind him. He carries the weight of his world on his shoulders and the mistakes he has made along the way.

I recommend it.

All Is True is presently in theaters.

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Happy Birthday, Ruth Bader Ginsburg!

We often make assumptions based on another’s appearance. One of the factors that use to make those assumptions is the height of a person.

Today is Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s 86th birthday. Born in Brooklyn in 1933, she was part of the first generation of women in the 1950’s who sought out a professional career while maintaining a marriage and raising children. Though she facing discrimination on multiple fronts, she knew that the fight for the rights of American women was paramount. In 1993, she became the second female Justice on the Supreme Court when President Bill Clinton appointed her as the then newest member of SCOTUS.

I think the best quote to sum up Justice Ginsburg comes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!”

Justice Ginsburg is one of the many women who paved the way for this generation of American woman. She fought for our rights and lit a fire under our collective bottoms that will never go out.

Happy Birthday Ruth Bader Ginsburg!

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Filed under Feminism, History, New York City, William Shakespeare

Flashback Friday-Shakespeare Uncovered (2012-2018)

William Shakespeare is more than a writer. He is an icon who told human stories about human characters.

The television series Shakespeare Uncovered (2012-2018)  is an in-depth exploration of Shakespeare’s work. Hosted every episode by a different actor who at one time, played a major character in a Shakespeare play, the purpose of the program is to do a deep dive into the play that is that subject of each episode. Combining interviews, performances, historical research, the host’s personal experience while playing the character and analysis of the play, the audience is introduced (or re-introduced) to Shakespeare’s work in a way that they have not seen before.

What I love about Shakespeare Uncovered is that it’s more than a dry academic blow-by-blow of his work. The program is intellectually stimulating, fascinating and mind-blowing at moments.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Flashback Friday, Television, TV Recap, William Shakespeare, Writing

The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Hits Too Close To Home

This morning started off like any morning for the members of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. At approximately 10:30 am EST, a gunman walked into the synagogue and killed 8 people with at least 4 more injured in the shooting. He stated the following as a reason for the shooting: All Jews must die.

This shooting hits too close to home for me. Other than attending services on the high holidays (and perhaps for a special occasion), I haven’t attended Saturday morning services regularly since high school. But I come from a Jewish family where attending regular Saturday morning services is a just part of the weekly calendar. I count my blessings that none of my loved ones were in that synagogue, but it also hurts like h*ll.

I am scared, angry and on the verge of tears.  Antisemitism is alive and well in America. The people who were killed were only killed because they are Jewish and happened to attend services at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

This should not be happening in 2018. We should be able to go about our business without being afraid of being killed for who we are. Religious institutions should not need to hire armed guards or security so their members can attend services and feel safe in doing so.

According to news reports, the accused gunmen was found with an AR-15 and a handgun. An AR-15 was also used in the shooting in Las Vegas and Florida.  What will it take for our government to enact reasonable gun control laws? How many will die before we come to our senses?

Of course, you know who sounded Presidential, be we all know that he is part of the problem. His antisemitic dog whistles has allowed those who believe as shooter did that they are right.

This should be classified as a hate crime and if convicted, the shooter should receive the harshest legal penalty possible.

May the memory of those killed be a blessing and may we all see each other first and foremost as human beings.

I am going end this post with Shylock’s speech from The Merchant of Venice. Though this speech was written hundreds of years ago, it feels relevant today.

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.-Act III, scene I

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Filed under National News, William Shakespeare

Backwards and Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays Book Review

On the surface, writing is a very simple process. It is turning the computer and opening the word processing program or taking out the pad and pen and beginning to write.

But the reality is that writing is both an art and a skill. Especially if the writer is playwright. Writing a play is very different from writing prose. Beyond the standard issues of character and narrative development, there is also the very specific format and the idea that the play is not just in the hands of the writer. It is in the hands of the director, the actors, etc. All have a part in creating the final product which will hopefully be seen by an audience.

Backwards and Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays, written by David Ball and with a foreword by Michael Langham, is about the craft of writing plays. The book touches on everything a playwright would need to know about including character and narrative development to imagery, conflict, theme, etc. Using William Shakespeare’s Hamlet as an example, this book should be required reading for every playwright, especially if they are just starting out.

This book was recommended to me by a writer friend. It was an educational and eye-opening read. It was also a reminder that writing plays and writing prose are two different animals and requires writers to think differently when writing a play vs. writing a novel.

I recommend it.

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Indecent Play Review

Morality and art are often subjective.

In 1923, the play God Of Vengeance hit Broadway. It closed in one night. It closed not because of poor reviews, but because it was considered immoral. It is the love story of two women against a backdrop of false piety, false modesty and the worship of the almighty dollar. Written in the first decade of the 20th century by Sholem Asch, it has been compared to Romeo and Juliet for its portrayal of love against all odds.

The Broadway play Indecent, is about not only the production of this play, but the reaction to the play over the years. Written by playwright Paula Vogel and directed by Rebecca Taichman, the play starts in the early 20th century in Warsaw. Sholem Asch (Max Gordon Moore), a newlywed and a budding writer, has written a play called God Of Vengeance. Young and enthusiastic, he is eager to see his play on stage. It becomes a success in Europe, but in America, it is a different story. The years pass, the culture changes and the question of what is art and how morality plays into the question comes into the forefront of the battle to see the play on stage again.

The thing that struck me about this play is how relevant it feels in 2017. It asks questions about politics, immigration, morality, diversity, etc. It also has a love story with two women, which was unheard of in the early 20th century and only now is slowly becoming more acceptable.

I absolutely recommend it. Indecent is only open until this Sunday, August 6th. See it if you can. I guarantee that you will walk out of the theater blown away.

Indecent is at 138 West 48th Street in New York City. You can find more information at http://www.indecentbroadway.com.

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Filed under Broadway Play Review, History, New York City, Writing

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Desperate times often calls for desperate measures. The questions are, what are we willing to give up in the process and how does that process change us?

In the new movie, Lady Macbeth (which has no connection to William Shakespeare character other than the title of the film), Katherine (Florence Pugh) is a young woman sold in the name of marriage to an older man. Forbidden from doing much of anything, Katherine is left alone with only her servants for company while her husband and father in law go out into the world. She starts sleeping with Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), one of her husband’s groomsman. The affair quickly becomes an affair of the heart. But things get messy when her husband and father in law return home. Katherine and Sebastian try to clean up the mess they have created. But the more they try to clean it up, the messier it becomes.

The best way to describe this film is that it is a hybrid of the psychology of an Alfred Hitchcock film with the imagery and narrative of a Wuthering Heights adaptation. It also speaks truth to power about what a woman will do when she has no direct power and must use other means to get what she wants. The three things that stand out for me are a) the diverse cast b) the lack of music and how background sounds play a role in telling the story and c) how I felt as an audience member when the film was done. I disliked Katherine for her actions, but in understanding her motivation, it made for a very well done film.

I absolutely recommend it.

Lady Macbeth is presently in theaters.

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Filed under Books, Emily Bronte, Feminism, Movie Review, Movies, William Shakespeare, Wuthering Heights

Still Star Crossed Book Review

*Warning: This review contains spoilers about Still Star Crossed. Read at your risk.

My new favorite television show is Still Star Crossed. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the source material is not just Shakespeare’s play, but also a novel by Melinda Taub.

The plot of the book somewhat mirrors the plot of the television show. Romeo and Juliet are dead and the streets of Verona are drenched in blood. To restore peace, young Prince Escalus sees only one way to end the violence: unite the Capulets and Montagues in holy matrimony. The surviving heirs, Romeo’s cousin Benvolio is to marry Juliet’s cousin Rosalind. The problem is that neither the prospective bride or prospective groom care for each other. Add to the fact that Escalus and Rosalind were once in love and there are forces at work who would prefer to see Rosalind and Benvolio not marry.

As expected, there are changes between the book and the novel. While most of the language is Shakespearean English, Ms. Taub does switch to modern English a couple of times in the book.

Do I recommend it? I will answer the question this way. If I only knew the book, I would say yes. But being that I am a fan of the show, I am leaning toward maybe.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, Television, William Shakespeare

Still Star Crossed Review

We all know the end of Romeo and Juliet. The star-crossed lovers commit suicide and their families are held responsible for the bloodshed, the destruction and the loss of life.

In the new television series, Still Star Crossed, the violence, bloodshed and murder has continued in the wake of the double suicide of Romeo and Juliet. To restore peace, Prince Escalus (Sterling Sulieman) proposes a most unlikely and unwelcome solution: Rosalind Capulet (Lashana Lynch) marry Benvolio Montague (Wade Briggs). Neither are pleased with the match, especially Escalus, who has been in love Rosalind (and she with him) for years. But it must done, for the good of the city. The question is not only will the marriage take place, but can it heal the open and bloody wounds between the Capulets and the Montagues?

I am not a huge Shonda Rhimes fan, but I am a fan of Shakespeare and I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the pilot. It has everyone one expects from a Shakespeare play (or at least a decent adaptation of a Shakespeare play): violence, danger, romance, greed etc. I also very much appreciate the diversity of the cast. To see a rainbow of skin colors and ethnic backgrounds just adds another layer of authenticity and realism that already exists in not just Romeo and Juliet, but in all of Shakespeare’s plays.

I recommend it.

Still Star Crossed airs on ABC at 10 PM on Monday.

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Filed under Television, TV Review, William Shakespeare