BWW Reviews: THE STRANGE UNDOING OF PRUDENCIA HART at the Shakespeare Theatre Center
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by Charles Shubow
First, do not attempt to see the current Shakespeare Theatre Company production at their homes at the Landsburgh Theatre or at Sidney Harman Hall. Instead, head to Dupont Circle to the Bier Baron Tavern (formerly the Brickskellar), 1523 22nd Street, NW (Bierbarondc.com) .
And once again, the STC has invited The National Theatre of Scotland to entertain locals. The first hit the STC brought to DC was the magnificent BLACK WATCH which was so successful, the show recently ended a return engagement.
No one has ever been to The National Theatre of Scotland theater (launched in 2006) because they have no stage of their own. This troupe travels all over Scotland and the world. They assert that "All of Scotland is our stage, and from here we perform to the world. We are a theatre of the imagination: a Theatre Without Walls..." They perform in various buildings in Scotland, and in site-specific locations, airports, community halls, drill halls, and forests. (Visit www.nationalstheatrescotland.com).
Now don't expect to see anything close to the intense play BLACK WATCH. PRUDENCIA HART was after all a huge hit in 2011 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which includes eclectic works of art, dance, theater, and music. And yes, I would consider PRUD...eclectic.
The play reminded me a little of the wonderful commedia dell'arte musical THE GLORIOUS ONES by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty which concerned a theater troupe during the Italian Renaissance which worked without a script and traveled across Europe.
Here there is a script by David Greig, there is splendid music by Composer/Musical Director/and actor Alasdair Macrae, and a director, Wils Wilson. The cast Andy Clark, Annie Grace, Melody Grove, David McKay, and Macrae are all splendid. Playing the leading role of Prudencia is the remarkable Grove whose performance I will always remember.
Remember, the plays is set in a pub. So beware, the actors move all about and on your tables. A good spot to sit is the little porch to the right of the stage. When I arrived and took my seat and noticed the table next to me hard at work cutting up paper napkins. As it turned out, they were asked to help the cast with the special effect of making snow! And who was my neighbor? None other than the iconic Washington Post theatre critic Peter Marks who was having a ball.
There is also free samples of Benromach Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky available and during intermission, ham and cheese sandwiches on white bread are passed out. I told you this will be a different experience.
Oh...the story. Prudencia is a ballad collector who goes on a quest to find her missing song. According to Dr. Valentina Bold, senior lecturer in Scottish Studies at the University of Glasgow's Crichton Campus in Dumfries, who has a special interest in oral and song traditions in southern Scotland, ballad collectors and ballad singers tend to have one special song they, and nobody else, sing - their ultimate song.
According to Wils Wilson, Prudencia is "on a dangerous journey of self-discovery, and she may have to dance with the devil on the way." And she does.
So...Prudencia one snowy evening, embarks on a trip to a conference on the ancient traditions of ballads to the small town of Kelso at the southern border of Scotland near England wishing she could finish her dissertation examining Hell. At this lovely pub are musicians playing the guitar, banjo, the bondrum, bagpipes, and the table top harmonium. (The band actually will be playing as you arrive to the play).
Well, Prudencia gets snowed in and must choose to stay in the pub and head to a Bed and Breakfast in which she had a reservation. Well...you can imagine it's COOLD, it's DAAARK, outside and finally she meets someone who offers help.
Well...that's all I will say about the plot.
It's funny, it's clever and you'll hear plenty of references regarding a Costco parking lot, you'll hear references to James Blunt, Susan Boyle (nicknamed SuBo), Lady Ga Ga, melodies such as music from the Black-Eyed Peas, the songs "Guantanamena" and "Bridge over Trouble Water".
There was even a lap dance performed on a patron. I spoke to Zach from DC who commented, "We arrived a little late and one risks being a participant. " He thought it was hysterical and impromptu. Zach's girl friend also got a kick out of it. They are subscribers to STC and were enjoying their experience.
As a reminder, all patrons must present a legal I.D. and those under 21 years of age must be accompanied by a legal guardian.
Beverage service is available before, during and after the show. Draft beer is $7, wine is $8. After 5 p.m., there is a happy hour special for $10 you get a burger and a draft beer.
There is also a CD for sale for $15.
This is not for everyone. But if you always wanted to see what the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is like, here is your opportunity. It's a hoot.
PRUDENCIA HART continues until Dec. 9. Call 202-547-1122 or visit www.shakespeareTheatre.org.
See a nice article by Washington Post Theater Critic Peter Marks about actress Melody Grove (Predencia Hart) in the Wednesday, December 5th edition in the Style Section.
WILL LEAD DISCUSSION ON SITE-SPECIFIC THEATRE
DURING RUN OF THE STRANGE UNDOING OF PRUDENCIA HART
Washington, D.C. — The Shakespeare Theatre Company, recipient of the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award®, will hold a symposium on site-specific and immersive theatre in conjunction with The National Theatre of Scotland’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, STC’s first site-specific work. The symposium, part of STC’s AsidesLIVE programming series, will take place Tuesday, December 4, from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. in The Forum in Sidney Harman Hall (610 F Street NW). Tickets are $15 for the general public, $10 for subscribers and $5 for students.
This production of David Greig’s play, set in a pub in Kelso, Scotland, takes place in the Bier Baron Tavern in the Dupont neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The actors interact with the audience by performing all over the bar, standing on tables and singing songs with the pubgoers. This production offers fodder for discussion of how theatre spaces have transformed over the centuries and how 21st century artists are rethinking where and how theatrical work can be seen.
Participants in the AsidesLIVE Symposium on December 4 will discuss the artistry and logistics that go into producing the work of The National Theatre of Scotland, dog & pony dc and Punchdrunk theatre company. As well as the work seen at the Capital Fringe Festival and presented by the Shakespeare Theatre Company.
Schedule of Events
6:30 p.m.: Welcome and A Mini-lecture on Theatrical Space,given by Arnold Aronson, Professor Columbia University School of the Arts, author of Looking into the Abyss: Essays on Scenography
6:45 p.m.: A look at the immersive world of Prudencia Hart
7:00 p.m.: Panel: Reimagining Theatrical Space, moderated by Otis Ramsey-Zöe, Professor of Theatre at Howard University
8:00 p.m. Panel: Producing outside the Proscenium, moderated by Hannah Hessel, Audience Enrichment Manager
To purchase tickets or to learn more, patrons can call the box office at 202.547.1122 or visit Shakespeare Theatre Company website" href="http://tracking.wordfly.com/click?sid=MTQ5XzM0MjRfNjU1MTFfNjgzNg&l=c2ae5617-5a2f-e211-9a10-e41f1345a486&utm_source=wordfly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2012_11_15_Press_Release_ASIDESLIVE&utm_content=version_A&sourceNumber=18479" target="_blank">ShakespeareTheatre.org.