Revisiting the 1920s with Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost”

Jim Helsinger as Don Adriano de Armado, Jacob Dresch as Costard, and Maxel Garcia as Moth star in Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” (Photo by Tony Firriolo.)


ORLANDO — Were the 1920s one of the last truly great decades, a time of economic prosperity when the nation was not at war, when Jazz was born and the parties never stopped? Was it the last moment of wide-eyed optimism before the Great Depression, World War II and other upheavals brought everything crashing back to Earth?
Hard to say. But it’s worth noting that if anyone books a ticket to see the Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” they should also catch the ongoing production of “The Great Gatsby”.
Both plays are set in the 1920s — “Gatsby” in New York and “Love’s” in Navarre, Spain, and the production values in both are first rate — from the music of the era to one of the true stars of both shows, the fine work of the Shakespeare’s Swingin’ Sewin’ Society and Costume Shop Volunteers, who made those elegant outfits that evoke the 1920s. Try to see both productions, if you can, because they most definitely work together in this evocation of a bygone era. Continue reading

Polanski’s “Frantic,” and the fear of the Muslim immigrant

Roman Polanski’s movie “Frantic” was released in U.S. cinemas on Feb. 26, 1988, so it now marks its 29th anniversary. The movie was released two years after Polanski’s box office failure “Pirates,” which was also savaged by the critics. In comparison, “Frantic” did well at the box office and drew positive reviews by critics who felt it was a solid if not spectacular return to form for the Polish director.

Harrison Ford and Betty Buckley star in Roman Polanski’s thriller “Frantic.”

The movie, about an American physician arriving in Paris for a medical conference who thinks his wife may have been kidnapped, was praised as a Hitchcock-style thriller with a first-rate lead performance by Harrison Ford.
Today, “Frantic” is largely forgotten. It was made in-between two Academy Award-winning films by the director, “Tess” in 1980 and “The Pianist” in 2002.

“Frantic,” like many of the other movies that Polanski made after leaving the United States in 1978, has largely been written off as being sub-par compared to his 1960s and 1970s efforts, which included “Knife In The Water,” “Repulsion,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown.”
Seen today, “Frantic” is clearly a very well made and tense thriller. Continue reading

Decadence on display in stage version of “Great Gatsby”

Christian Ryan is Tom Buchanan, Jacob Dresch as George Wilson, Madelyn James as Mrs. Michaelis, and Eric Eichenlaub as a cop in Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of “The Great Gatsby.” (Photo by Tony Firriolo.)

ORLANDO — Legend has it that author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who died in 1940, thought he had been a failure as a writer because his 1925 novel “The Great Gatsby” had sold poorly and gotten mediocre reviews when it was first released. Turns out the book was ahead of its time, and would later become acclaimed as a literary classic.
Brought to the stage at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, courtesy of an adaptation by Simon Levy, the theater provides a handsomely mounted and wonderfully acted saga that captures the feel of the Roaring Twenties and the rise of the Jazz age. It was a decade of great prosperity when lavish parties were the norm, and even though it was the era of Prohibition, booze flowed freely.
“The Great Gatsby” has traditionally been viewed as a book about how corrupting the pursuit of the American Dream can turn out to be, and it’s true that when young Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate from the Midwest and a World War I veteran, arrives in the town of West Egg, Long Island, he has a sense of wide-eyed optimism about his future in this economically booming decade. Continue reading

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