Sunday, August 14, 2005

"Theatre Is a Well-Lit Hell"

Fan of high-quality TV? Shakespearean theater geek past or present? Check out Slings and Arrows, a six-episode Canadian series airing this summer on the Sundance Channel.

Meet the asylum inmates of the New Burbage Festival: the former Hamlet whose insanity runs at full strength offstage as well as on; the Blanche Duboisy leading lady, a literal drama queen; the self-loathing old artistic director who's no less bitter now that he's, well, dead; a viperish (American) corporate sponsor; the malsocialized general manager who sees plays as just the noisy prelude to gift shop sales; winsome apprentices whose winsomeness doesn't mean they're above skipping call time for a Corny Smacks audition.

These people are nuts, but only about 10% more so than the real deal. I know. I've been one.

At its heart, Slings and Arrows is a workplace comedy (the GM is right out of The Office), but for workers who giggle knowingly when a stage manager mutters "35 to 65" into her headset as a director tries to get the lighting just so-- for an onstage funeral.

Finely acted, articulate, and touching, the show's nonetheless not above a sight gag involving a semi hauling Canada's Best Hams. It's funny for all audiences (the creators include a Kid in the Hall), not just those who know what the Equity Cot is.

I'm utterly charmed by the fact that a TV series, mini- or otherwise, about a Shakespearean theater festival can find mass market acceptance and recognition in Canada. Not something I'd imagine happening here in the States.

1 comment:

Fun Joel said...

Sounds a heck of a lot like "A Midwinter's Tale," a really funny film with Kenneth Brannagh and Joan Collins(!) among others about a low budget acting troupe putting on a production of Hamlet. Well worth seeing, if you haven't already.