But I’m getting off topic. My question was why put this world class theater doing classical (for the sake of this argument) texts in the middle of schlocky schlocksville? To attract a more diverse crowd? Full price tix were 80 bucks (we got them half price of course), about twice the price of any other theater tix in the city save for the totally sold out national tour huge summer musical extravaganza production of Wicked. 80 dollar tickets does not encourage the bringing of one’s totally hopped up, sticky, cranky, glow sticked children, right? The overlap of these two groups of people -- people who want to see Shakespeare and are willing to spend 80 dollars on it vs. people who want to eat fried dough, buy a pencil sharpener model of the Sears tower, and then go on the tilt a whirl -- is small (limited, perhaps, to Greg exclusively, and even he is borderline). Indeed, the audience was as white, middle aged, and blue haired as usual if a bit less high brow and a bit more touristy (so, then, was the show).
It pandered but brilliantly. Instead of just doing COE, it imagined a film studio making a film of the play in London in the 40s, so we got scenes from COE interspersed with this other play they’d written about these people making this movie. The marginalized ham, used to playing star parts, reduced here to playing a silly servant, keeps begging the director to let him do the St. Crispen’s Day speech from Henry V, a recurring joke that is brilliant on at least a dozen levels, but I’ll spare you these as it’s interesting only to me (and perhaps TG who, as you can imagine, already got the full lecture). Anyway, the ham gets slapped across the face towards the end of the “film” and the light changes and cue I’m-seeing-stars music, and he busts into the speech. About a third of the audience maybe got it, but we few (we happy few, we band of...well, you get it) cracked the fuck up. Genuinely. It was actually funny, not intellectually funny. It was brilliant. It was awesome. It was one of the funniest moments I have ever seen in live Shakespeare. And it cost nothing if you didn’t happen to be familiar with the speech -- the delivery was pretty funny anyway. I cried. Not from laughing so hard (though that too) but because it was so damn perfect and good.
Anyway, I would like to think the moral of this long winded story is something like happy marriage between tourists and academics, candy apples and theater snobs, but I don’t think it is. Shakespeare was not writing for a high brow audience, and his theater was located in a much less savory part of town than the Navy Pier. This isn’t the Globe though, and that’s not what they are going for. What they are going for I do not know. However, I expect seldom to see better theater in a more unusual place for it and never ever to see a better production of the Comedy of Freaking Errors of all things.