A rolling bard gathers no moss

 

Last updated 5/14/2024 at 10:35am

Photo by T. Lee Brown

Laurie Shook (left) of the Shook Twins sang backup for Anna Moss at The Belfry on Friday.

It was a fine week for music and Shakespeare. Or maybe I should say music and wildly silly theater that riffs on Shakespeare?

Music first. My teenaged son joined me for a spirited show at The Belfry, headlined by Anna Moss, also known for her duo Handmade Moments (find my interview with her on the fabulous Interwebs at nuggetnews.com). I asked for his opinion.

"I liked the opener, Ian George, with his sentimental folk-rock songwriting style," he said. "I thought that he had a really great personality. He wrote a beautiful song about a horse, from the point of view of the horse. It's such an interesting way to write a song, and it was really powerful."

Personally, I was sold on George's groovy vibes and far-out banter between songs. Couldn't understand the lyrics too well - maybe that electric guitarist could turn down a notch? Must all amps go to 11? - but I'll trust my son's opinion on the songwriting.

On to the main event. Again, let's ask the teenaged son: "Anna Moss and the Nightshades were super incredible. The drummer was superb, the keyboardist was goofy and talented. Laurie Shook, who was featured on backup vocals, had an incredible voice. And then, of course, Anna Moss herself has a powerful voice, distinctive songwriting style, and a great stage presence."

Sounds accurate to me! I would double down on the talent of percussionist Fernando Lima, originally from Brazil. And I'd add that Moss is hilarious, a droll storyteller.

The New Orleans-based musician grew up in Arkansas, where, she said, "There wasn't much to do besides religion or meth." (Wait a beat.) "So I did both."

Moss claimed she was jealous of Oregonians. "I love Oregon. You've got clean rivers, legal weed. I see you ladies out there with your reproductive rights! We don't have that in the South."

Standing in an old church converted to a music venue, Moss retold the story of Genesis, explaining how the tale of Adam and Eve affected her eleven-year-old self. Spoiler: the Garden of Eden story is not kind to women, who are told they're made from a guy's rib and that they're responsible for the fall of humanity.

"This next song is my rebuttal to Genesis," she announced. "It's called 'Penis Envy.'" (Moss added that Freud was "a weirdo" but she enjoyed studying him.) Smooth and sultry, her voice cajoled and caressed the refrain "I've tasted evil" over and over, with keyboards grooving behind. Eartha Kitt would approve.

The encore got people dancing and hollering. Moss' hip-hop parody about ladies heading outdoors included the memorable chorus, "Guess who's goin' campin'? Me and my b*tches!" She even managed a rhyme about cans of smoked trout from everybody's favorite OG (Original Grocer), Trader Joe. Respect.

"Shakespeare (ab-ridged) [REVISED] (again)"

In fair Bendora, where we lay our scene, a trio of not-so-star-crossed comedic actors perform a compressed smashup of all of Shakespeare's plays, in approximately 97 minutes.

The setting is irresistible: a plant shop in an oddball neighborhood just off Third Street-a plant shop that happens to house a beautiful, intimate little black-box theatre. It's called the Greenhouse Cabaret, and it's probably worth the price of admission just to admire the blacklight artwork painted on the bathroom walls.

The show itself features loads of over-the-top comedy, running the gamut from groan-worthy silliness to that perennial physical-comedy favorite, vomiting. Love, suicide, and gender identity shenanigans? Rape, revenge, ghost stuffies, and murthur? "Shakespeare (abridged) [REVISED] (again)" has it all. Just like the complete works of William Shakespeare.

Deft and entertaining, Central Oregon actors Grey Conant, Kisky Holwerda, and the very funny Victoria Schaad dove into the Bard's comedies, histories, and tragedies-and into dozens of zany costumes, props, and wigs. The gags occasionally missed their marks or found the actors working too hard, too big, pushing an already howlingly ludicrous script past its comfort zone. Mostly, the jokes landed and the audience laughed.

As for the audience: it's helpful if you know your Horatio from your Polonius (hint: they are not internal organs), but not required. If you like slapstick or British-ish comedy, if you're a Shakespeare fan or a theatre nerd like your devoted columnist, this is the show for you! If not? Well, as my not-so-nerdy friend remarked afterward, "That was fun."

The script was developed by the wacky 'n' witty Reduced Shakespeare Company, whose side-splitting earlier versions of this play I saw at several outdoor fairs lo, these many years yonder. Directed by Richard Choate, the Greenhouse Cabaret's "Shakespeare (abridged) [REVISED] (again)" has been updated with mentions of local geography and assorted meta-woke references.

Enjoy the romp through May 25. Tickets and information are available at thegreenhousecabaret.com; note that productions at the Greenhouse can sell out quickly.

 

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