Shakespeare & the Coens: “Two Gentlemen of Lebowski”

by Bryce Lambert on February 13, 2010

Sometimes a good reading of a good play is just as good as an outright production. A solid cast can do a lot with just simple, tossed-together costumes, bare lighting, copies of the script, and a few music stands. Sets tend to be so minimal these days, that you don’t really notice an utter lack of one and readings (along with student productions) are really some of our only chances to see plays that require large casts, since even Boston’s big-budget theater companies shy from them as much as possible. The up and coming fringe theater group Exquisite Corps was quick to jump the Internet theater phenomena (can you believe there is such a thing?) and put on a pair of readings last week of the Two Gentlemen of Lebowski.

Adam Bertocci’s Shakespearean adaptation (or translation) of the 1998 Coen brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski is a theater success story like no other. Have a look at Bertocci’s timeline. He published the thing on his website January 6th and got his first offers to produce it the same day. Two days later, he was being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. Since then, it’s garnered major press coverage, scored him a book deal, and its eleven-night premiere run in New York, starting March 18th, sold out January 25th. Of course, much of this is owed to The Big Lebowski‘s stalwart cult fan-base, but that doesn’t mean it’s a weak play. In fact, I would argue that whatever low culture to high culture conversion machine Bertocci’s using works better than the highbrow to lowbrow device Diane Paulus keeps in her basement. I even liked Curt Klump (as Walter/Sir Walter of Poland) here more than in ASP’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (as Theseus).

Bertocci’s writing is solid, clever, and witty and the play isn’t nearly as peppered with puns on easily recognizable Shakespeare quotes as one would expect. And one mistake Betocci didn’t make is to only relate the dialogue in Shakespeare-esque language. The play a great sense of the Bard’s plotting, scene structure, characterization, and how the narrative arc is broken down into acts. It’s remarkable how much of Shakespeare is there. John Greene as (The Dude/The Knave) was perfectly cast by director Adrienne Boris and I’d like to see him in a full-on production.

This sold out “show” was a home run for Exquisite Corps and the local fringe theater scene in general–I’ve never seen the Factory Theatre outfitted with this much seating. The fifteen-member cast had a lot of fun with the play and it drew a young and enthusiastic audience, many of whom are outside of that inner circle that usually populates the Factory Theatre. If you missed it, keep your fingers crossed for a production (which I would think is foreseeable) or just read the thing on Bertocci’s website.

Exquisite Corps’ next production, Limonade Tous les Jours, opens April 1st @ the Arsenal Center for the Arts.

1 ELLEN L. SHLOM February 18, 2010 at 6:33 pm

GREAT JOB, ADRIENNE DREW BORIS, AS DIRECTOR – AND MY NIECE!

ANY CHANCE OF BRINGING TWO GENTLEMAN OF LEBOWSKI TO THE STEVENS CENTER IN WINSTON-SALEM??

KEEP ON, KEEP’IN ON!

LUV, AUNTIE ELXX

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