If you are ready for a comedy show, Arts Express has the ticket for you. And if you are ready for a ribald comedy, be sure to bring your mother or aunt.
One thing I especially noticed in this production of the Elizabethan-themed Something Rotten was the reaction of ladies of a certain age (shall we say 55+?). Aside from being fixated on actor Matt Milne’s hard lean torso, the sight gags and double entendres had them doubled over in laughter. None more so than when Preston Hatch (playing Nigel Bottom) dug deep (up and down several times) into his pouch between the legs to fetch a piece of paper.
The most provocative lines come from the mouth of a holier-than-thou preacher (naturally), played by Cedric Hay. In one of his many altercations with the two Bottom brothers (Nick and Nigel), he issues a threat: “I will smite thee bottoms. And smite them hard!”
Ribald comedy was a staple in the 1590s, when this play is set, so be prepared for a rollicking ride. The musical play features two lead protagonists: Will Shakespeare (as you have never imagined him, played by Milne) and his rival playwright Nick Bottom (played by Jeremy Meeker-Hackett). Both are University of Arizona grads.
As a tie-in to my review of the life of feminist Gloria Steinem (a play currently on stage in Tucson at Invisible Theatre), one of the female players states with affirmation “We have a woman on the throne! Women will be equal by 1600!” The fact women were not allowed to perform on stage in that time (yes, men had to dress as women, which perversely seemed less outrageous to those living in the 1500s and 1600s), is a subtext of the play. How this female character had to impersonate a man to get paid employment is a fascinating peek into the status of women at the time. Especially strange as the ruler was a woman: Queen Elizabeth I.
In many ways this is a broad farce (a favourite of the English theatre). It involves seeing into the future, but the view is a bit foggy. Nick has latched onto the idea of creating the first musical, with the subject matter being omelettes! The result is a send-up of many well-known musicals from the 20th century, a true pastiche of nonsense. Instead of an omelette, Nick serves up a scrambled egg. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I would have to give away secrets that only Shakespeare knows to cut through the London fog.
My favourite scene is an entrance by The Bard being carried on a litter by four men. Very decadent. Combined with evocative costumes, great dance moves and several fine tunes, the lead actors and large ensemble cast keep the audience engaged for 2 ½ hours. If you ever wondered how Shakespeare might have got many of the memorable lines in his plays, pay a visit to Arts Express. It is well worth it.
To see Meeker-Hackett without a mask, (which all the actors wear while still delivering live voice), visit this YouTube video he did last year at the Fred Fox School of Music in Tucson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=pDozkrW_uFU
The show is directed by Dr. Jonathon Scott Crider, with musical direction by Jennifer Campman and choreography by Simone Jolivet-Manual.
Guests can also enjoy visiting Arts Express’ Shakespearean Village, open Tuesday-Sunday at Park Place Mall. The village will welcome you to the Renaissance with cheery vendors, scrumptious treats, and Shakespeare-inspired gifts and novelty items.
Audience seating is reserved and can be purchased from 1-6 guests per group. For larger groups, please call. Tables are set cabaret-style, 6-8-ft. apart and 15-ft. from the stage. Tables can be purchased with multiple seating options. Tickets are $40 – $165 (per table, ranging from 1-6 people) and can be purchased online at www.arts-express.org/something-rotten, or by calling (520) 319-0400.
Something Rotten Performance Dates:
February 19 – 28: performances Fridays & Saturdays at 7 p.m., Matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. For details go to www.arts-express.org.