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The Bard in briefs

Erik Vienneau

Bikini tops, sexual puns and cross-dressing issues may sound like the plot synopsis of the latest episode of Sex and the City. But, for three nights at the Vilar Center (Aug. 22-24), the racy topics take center stage in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s presentation of the hilarious Shakespeare in Briefs!The satirical play is not for those who take themselves or the Bard too seriously. Shakespeare wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself, as he is said to have written satires of his own works, so I think having a little fun with the Bard can be quite a fun night at the theater (sorry, purists).A recent performance of Shakespeare in Briefs! at the CSF in Boulder was a wild ride through famous works like Hamlet, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet and Othello, with plenty of modernized references to TV shows, guys in kilts and trips to the psychotherapist.Directed and written by John Dennis, the new play comes complete with a role for Dracula who is tired of being feared, a sword fight that tragically ends with the theme song from M.A.S.H. blasting through the speakers and a bunch of hilarious top-10 lists.Dennis uses the lists to provide a new way of connecting works within the canon. Expect the Top Ten Sword Fights, the Top Ten Missing Mothers and the Top Ten Dysfunctional Relationships. The director isn’t afraid to take pokes at how overly analytical and psychologically focused our society has become.Dracula just wants to be loved, while Adam Hose, the male actor forced to play female roles, uses the other actors and the audience as his therapist.Don’t worry, he’s a funny patient.Besides a well-written, irreverent look at Shakespeare, the CSF cast steps up to the improvisational sprit of the play and keeps the audience both in laughter and impressed with their occasional attempts to “seriously” act out the most famous of lines.The age-old tradition of cross dressing proves to be alive and well in the frenzied fun. To present this condensed cavalcade of stars, many plots are twisted and teased. True to the spirit of the Bard, however, the evening still renders tales of love frustrated and flaws punished. And, of course, dead bodies litter the stage as the tragedies run their courses.The first act moves at a pace similar to a quick-witted improv troupe at the local comedy club. The four-member cast makes references to modern-day media while running, stabbing and stumbling its way across the stage. It’s the type of cast you fall in love with for the comic sensibility, while forming a respect for their refined acting skills. There’s a strong sense that this cast would be just as impressive presenting Richard III as they are this satire.Unfortunately, the second act moves a bit slower and seems less current and witty than the first. But, the troupe does involve the audience and keeps switching from a warped view of each play to briefing the audience with the Cliff Note versions of other Shakespeare classics to keep interest going.Perhaps the rough division between the pop-culture-friendly first act and the more straightforward tour of works was intentional. Full-on fans and Shakespeare newbies can get something out of the performance. Newcomers get an overload of quick peeks at the classics, while the know-it-alls can stop taking themselves too seriously for a night. And, fortunately, both groups can share a hearty laugh.CSF’s Shakespeare in Briefs! begins at 7:30 p.m., Aug., 22-24 at Beaver Creek’s Vilar Center. Tickets cost $36 and are available at the box office or by calling (970) 845-TIXS.


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