By Gregor Smith
Do you hate Shakespeare? Or do you love him?
If you are in the “hate” camp, Gaslight Theater’s presentation of I Hate Shakespeare! may change your mind. If you already love the Bard, the play will deepen your appreciation of his works. Gaslight, which bills itself as Maine’s “oldest continuously operating theater,” will hold six performances on the second and third weekends of July. The performances will be in Augusta and Hallowell.
Written by Steph DeFerie and directed by Meg Mattheson, this play about plays spoofs both Shakespeare and popular culture. Through a series of sketches, Hamlet (Cody Curtis) and the ensemble (listed below) try to convince an “Unhappy Person” (Kathleen Leopold) that Shakespeare’s plays are still interesting, meaningful, and funny four hundred years after they were written. The sketches include Othello, Iago, and Desdemona’s sorting out their differences on the Jerry Springer Show; a mild-mannered milquetoast’s finding courage in a can as he learns to use Shakespearean insults against a sand-kicking bully at the beach; the ensemble’s attempts to relate the plot of “the Scottish play” without saying the name of the play or its lead character, lest some calamity occur; and Juliet’s going on The Dating Game to choose a suitor. (Will she pick Romeo?) There are also zombies and cheerleaders, and at some point, somebody gets a pie in the face.
The cast and crew also includes Ben Keene, Lisa Copenhaver, Donna Loveland, Eleanor Maranda, Joe Maranda, Desi-Rae Severson, Quinn Murray, Matthew Perry, Gregor Smith, Tony Vazquez, and Richard Bostwick. There are 44 distinct roles, so each actor plays multiple parts.
Performances will take place Friday Sunday, July 8-10 & 15-17. The Friday and Saturday shows will all start at 6:00 p.m., the Sunday shows at 2:00. Not including intermission, the play runs around 75 minutes. The play is certainly suitable for children, although they may not get all the jokes and references. Indeed, the first-ever production of I Hate Shakespeare! used child actors. Rather than taking place on Broadway with adult professionals, it was by the students at a middle school on Cape Cod in 2008.
The first weekend’s performances will be held in Augusta’s Waterfront Park, behind the stone-turreted Olde Federal Building on Water Street. The Augusta performances are underwritten by the Augusta Downtown Alliance. The second weekend will be at the Vaughan Homestead Pavilion at 2 Litchfield Road in Hallowell.
All performances will be outdoors. Audience members should bring their own chairs or blankets to sit on. Admission is free, but donations will be gratefully accepted. For more information, go to www.gaslighttheater.org or call 626‑3698.
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