Friday, July 11, 2014


CORIOLANUS by William Shakespeare

Just south of Little Tokyo there’s some art going on.  The Friday night crowd wanders the summer streets, parking is dear and there’s a festive atmosphere around the neighborhood.  The Archway Theatre on South Hewitt is housed in a former bar with great ambiance and exposed bricks that may be a hundred years old. 

Director Steven Sabel has chosen to mount the seldom produced Coriolanus.  With doubling, his cast of over twenty, we find that the actors are sincere…  and loud.  The brick walls of the 45 seat space make the recitations of the enthusiastic thespians bounce as they escalate to show their strong emotions. 

The trouble with this tragedy is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense. A brave soldier, Caius Marcius (later to become Coriolanus), (Robert Beddall) goes to defend his city: Rome.  Sword play ensues.  Inches from the audience, sword play needs be cautious, which, of course looks like stage combat.  Casting women as soldiers may be politically okay, but it is very difficult to see these women being smacked around by men.  The issue of shouting, virtually by every member of the cast, was unnecessary. Please don't tear a passion to tatters.

Suffice it to say that the fault is in this choice of productions.   A very difficult Shakespearean tragedy, read by relatively inexperienced actors in a tiny space has two strikes against it as the curtain goes up.   Coriolanus post dates by eight years Julius Cesar (which is also tragic, but easier to understand, at least.)  In Julius Cesar we hear “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!”  However, in this play, Shakespeare has Menenius Agrippa (Frank Gedden) use the line to attempt to calm the common folk, “Do not cry havoc, where you should but hunt with modest warrant.”  And though, the ‘havoc’ in Archway’s production is mostly in the marginally adept actors, it’s enough to make us question, "Why this play and why now?"

CORIOLANUS by William Shakespeare 
as adapted and directed by Steven Sabel
The Archway Theatre
305 S. Hewitt Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Through August 16, 2014
Tickets and information
213 267 9933

In fairness, this email is from the director of this play.   He seems to be a sincere and dedicated person.  His criticisms of my review are valid.  Of course, had I stayed for the second act of his production and wanted to discuss the issues of tech and the other aspects of his production, I would have had to spend another two hours dodging the obvious.  This is the director's email to me.  He is right. I am a lazy critic.  I can think of lots of things worse than that, though.   It's much more fun to write a rave. Michael Sheehan

"Your viewpoints aside, as you are entitled to your opinion; still there is nothing worse than a lazy critic. You might have read the Director's Note to find an answer to your overriding question of why this play, and why now. You also might have checked your spelling of the title of the play throughout your post, and the director's last name before going to hasty print.
Journalism 101, my friend.....

Also - no mention of production values in a theatrical review? Costumes, scenic design, lighting - are all artistic aspects of a production worthy of more words than your sexist viewpoints about women.

Steven SABEL"

No comments:

Post a Comment