Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Shakespeare Is Actually Kind of Incidental

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Optimist Theatre returns this summer with another Shakespeare in the park experience--this one in an actual park. In years past, they'd performed their shows in a nice, little classy and protected area outdoors on the campus of Alverno College. This year they have moved to a very picturesque place in Kadish Park overlooking the downtown Milwaukee skyline.

I can't stress enough that the park itself is beautiful. Sitting there outside in an evening taking in a Shakespearian comedy is a actually a lot of fun. And the fact that it's free doesn't hurt at all. While some of the acting is really, really unfortunate, some of it is amazing and the play itself holds together quite well. Ssitting there and watching the show, however, it becomes apparent that the Shakespeare itself actually becomes kind of incidental to the fact that you're watching it in a park overlooking downtown Milwaukee in the middle of a summer that has just become quite comfortable. 


Last night we heard fireworks.

Last night we heard distant sirens.

Last night we heard music from Bastille Days.

Last night there was the sound of music from passing motorcycles. 


It's like Shakespeare's just some guy we're hanging out with in a park in Milwaukee on a lovely summer evening. And the show is only kind of incidental to the fact that you're actually watching it. And you're watching it with a bunch of other people who happen to be there watching it as well. Kind of incidentally. The entire reason for being there kind of turns out to be an afterthought. That, in and of itself, is really, really beautiful art. 


If you go expected to be drawn-in exclusively by the show, then you might be disappointed. Milwaukee won't keep it down for an evening so that you can watch a show, which is a pity as there are some really good performances here by people like Todd Denning and Clayton Hamburg and Alison Mary Forbes and Christopher Elst and Tess Cinpinski. In a way, even the best actors in the cast are just there hanging out with Shakespeare in a park in Milwaukee like the rest of us.  


It's fun and it's free and I hope it continues. 

But it's really frustrating if you're there to actually watch the show. 


A full review of Optimist Theatre's Shakespeare in the Park production of As You Like It  runs in the next print edition of the Shepherd-Express. The show continues through July 21st. (That's the 13th, the 14th and the 18th - 21st. All shows start at 8pm. And since this is a free show, you might want to show up kind of early.) 


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