Matt Saldarelli is a corporate lawyer. He loves the theatre and wants to be a part of it. He had an idea in college about writing a play about getting back at Shakespeare to avoid writing a paper about the Bard. Some eleven years later it is being presented as part of the Fringe Festival at The Players Theatre. My advice to Matt is – do not give up your day job and do a rewrite.
Although sporadically funny, “Getting Even With Shakespeare” is more an academic exercise. A play written to show off how intellectual the writer is. A writer who has a large enough ego to include himself as one of the characters and in the final scene read a NY Times profile that lauds Matt as someone who has written “arguably the most important play of the decade”. It isn’t.
What it is is a long winded play short on clarity. Unless you are a master of Shakespearean plays you might miss many of the barbs and “in” jokes in a production directed by Laura Konsin that has a fey Hamlet (Josh Odsess-Rubin), a wuss of a Romeo (Ben Holmes), a preppy harlot of a Juliet with a tart tongue (Amanda Tudesco), a vindictive Macbeth (Patrick Pizzolorusso) and a bicycle peddling King Lear (John D’Arcangelo) floating around in space and time, attending every performance everywhere of their namesake plays and for the moment congregating in a bar trashing and bashing the Bard.
It seems that Shakespeare’s words have “hurt” them and he has tortured and killed them all off in such dastardly ways that they want revenge. There is also an Ophelia who is not the actual Ophelia but the barmaid/ actress looking for a larger role.
Into this group of dissenters enters Matt (Greg Ayers), a lawyer and unsuccessful playwright, who wants into their club. Only he must write a play for them to get even with their creator. When we finally see “Getting Even with Shakespeare” the play within the play of the same name in the fourth scene of this five scene play there is some sparkle and wit to be found. But prior to this we get a lot of mangling of famous lines, cell phone calls, dialogue sprinkled with tweeter talk, and references to Marlowe, Beckett and metaphysics.
Brush up your Shakespeare before heading out to see this one.