November 9, 2011- Issue 8 A&E

Student gives five stars for Falstaff

Copy Editor

The Lyric Theatre Society pulled off an outstanding four performances this weekend with the opera “Falstaff.’” After attending the Friday and Sunday night performances, I would have to give the show five stars out of five.

It was a lengthy show, but no one minded, especially because of the two 10-minute intermissions and concessions downstairs. They came prepared with coffee, water, cupcakes, cookies and candy all for 50 cents or less. The tickets were only $3. You definitely got your money’s worth, and at the end of the show I felt like I had just underpaid for a ticket. From 8 p.m. until 10:30 I was lost in the world that was “Falstaff.”

Each scene had a set more elaborate than the next, leaving the audience in awe as they wondered, “How did they do that?” There was a lavish sitting room with red striped walls, and two painted portraits of Alice and her husband Ford in gold picture frames. In one scene filled with chaos in searching for Falstaff, Ford’s picture is turned over to reveal a painting of a shirtless and sexy Brad Pitt. The actor who discovered this scratched his head while the audience burst into laughter.

The final scene had the best set, in my opinion. The setting was an enchanted forest, and there were audible oohs and aahs when the curtain opened. There was a huge tree that looked real, and sparkling lights came on that hung like leaves. “That tree was wicked awesome,” Julia Smith commented after the show.

Aside from Brad Pitt, there wasn’t one element of the production that broke the 16th century setting . The costumes were elaborate and perfectly tailored for each individual .

Even the wealthy men wore fancy rings, and the well-off women had bejeweled gowns. Falstaff was very fat. I hardly recognized Nathan Van Til and Chuck Harris, who appeared twice their size in the fat suit. There were many references to his size throughout the production, including “lump of obesity,” “huge carcass” and “fat man.” Falstaff was by no means  offended, believing that “my vast roundness gives me fame and success.”

There are several members of the cast who are graduating this year, including Rae Dunn. During the Sunday performance she was near Falstaff serving him when he (played by Nathan Van Til) did a spit take right in her face. The audience and cast reacted in laughter and surprise.

This hadn’t happened in the previous shows. Sarah Smith, on stage at the time, said, “It took everything in my being to keep from laughing.”

I found out later that Nathan and Rae had secretly planned this that night. “I had to do something for my last LTS production,” Dunn explained. And there was more where that came from—the hilarious improvisations are what made the opera. I was glad I went twice because I saw how the different casts had put their own twists on the lines. In between set changes the servants of the main characters would come out and interact with each other, silently flirting, fighting and showing off manliness. These mini-scenes were definitely a crowd favorite.

Even though I was familiar with the plot and what would happen, I was still taken aback by the overall quality of the show, talent of the performers and how much I liked the story. When you picture a Shakespearian love story, two tragic star-crossed lovers may pop into your head. The love story in “Falstaff” didn’t end in suicide! Michael Cannon, lead in last year’s opera and returning to perform as an alum, received a multitude of kisses by two young women throughout the play. Because of the double cast, both Dominique Higdon and Rae Dunn played ‘Nanetta’ on alternating nights. These beautiful women were equally convincing as a girl in love with Fenton (Cannon). I am a person who lives for happy endings, and I am pleased to tell you that although Nanetta’s father disapproved for a while, he came around in the end, allowing the love of the adorable couple to continue.

No one died in this opera. I had thought that in an opera, someone usually is supposed to die. Although Falstaff is a jerk to everyone, they don’t kill him. They teach him a lesson he will never forget. Falstaff repents and all is forgiven.

Monkies trump “Anonymous”

Staff Writer

When I first saw the trailer ofRoland Emmerich’s new film “Anonymous,”billed as a historical thrillerand advertised as portraying thetrue origins of the works of WilliamShakespeare, the English major inme said, “Ooooooh, look! A Shakespeareconspiracy movie?! I’m goingto be firrst in line!” Unfortunately,the trailer also led the rationalthinker in me to say, “Ooooooh,look… That’s one conspiracy thatshould have remained a theory.”

On top of the trailer that obviouslyrevealed too much of the plot,the film is directed by Roland Emmerich;the director who brought usmany seminal favorites such as“Godzilla,” “10,000 BC,” “2012” and“The Day After Tomorrow” (sensinga theme here?). And while he canbe credited with one decent movie(“The Patriot”), since then Emmerichhas continued to bring nothingto the public but horrendous,schlocky cinema (and this is comingfrom a guy who loves horrendous,schlocky cinema). Thankfully forus, “Anonymous” bucks Emmerich’strend of bad, apocalyptic movies.Unfortunately for us, it still sucks.

As the film begins, we see anobviously late Sir Derek Jacobi(arguably one of the finest livingShakespearian actors) rushing ontoa stage while apologizing for gettingcaught in traffic. The curtain opensand Jacobi launches into a brilliantlyperformed monologue thatsets up the premise of the film.

Set in the mid-16th to earlier 17th century England, the film dramatizes a well-knownconspiracy theory which proposesthat the works of WilliamShakespeare were in factwritten by an aristocrat inthe court of Queen Elizabeth,Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. Now that plot aloneand the opening monologue by Sir Jacobi is more thanenough to win most viewersover. Unfortunately, the film quickly makes sure that youwon’t leave happy.

Throughout the next two hoursand 10 minutes (of which you feelevery second), what could have beena really interesting and intriguingthriller devolves into a depiction ofthe lurid details of the Tudors andtheir hyper-sexuality (I’m looking at you, foxy Queen Elizabeth I).And even this could have been salvagedinto something decent if notfor Emmerich’s shoddy direction.Throughout the film he continues toattempt telling two stories at onceinstead of having one as the mainfocus of the work. This results in far too many characters (who are maddeningly similar with their uniform,hipster, curly moustache beards),confusing jumps back and forthbetween timelines and a general inability for the viewer to reallycare or connect with any of thecharacters. Rafe Spall’s (“Shaun of the Dead”) depiction of Shakespeare shows the Bard as an unscrupulous and unlikable degenerate, probably owing more to Emmerich’s ham-fistedness than Spall’s dramatic license.

Despite all of Emmerich’s directional flaws,the acting in the film isvery solid,including fantastic performances by Rhys Ifans (Xenophilius Lovegood from “HarryPotter”) as the Earl of Oxford and the always amazing Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I. David Thewlis (Remus Lupin, also of “Harry Potter”) as William Cecil, first Baron Burghley and Sebastian Armestoas Ben Jonson also turn in verynoteworthy performances.

In addition,the use of the VFX CG technologyand remarkable costume designwork to draw you into ElizabethanEngland despite Emmerich’s bestefforts to push you out.In the end, the fault may ultimatelylie with me. Under all my outward predictions of this film’s horridness, I couldn’t help but hope.He’s had so many bad films in a row, I thought, surely he’s due for a great one! He wasn’t. Roland Emmerichwas a bad director whenhe directed “Independence Day”(that’s a bad movie. Don’t even kid yourself), and he’s still a bad director.It’s unfortunate that somethingthat could have been Oscar-worthymaterial (if it had stuck to onestory) had to come to this.The film endswith Sir Jacobiwalking off thestage to no applause. It was fitting. A microcosm for the world’s reaction to“Anonymous.”They say if you give a monkey an  infinite amount of time, it would almost surely type the works of William Shakespeare. I feel like that monkey could make a better film in less time. 2 out of 5 stars


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