By: Bailey Van Schepen . . .
Simple, clean and serene; three descriptors that encompass the atmosphere at The Clemente’s parking lot and provide the perfect canvas for The Drilling Company’s Two Noble Kinsmen. An audience could easily miss this hidden jewel in the LES of Manhattan as it tucked away within the concrete jungle. With the lot draped in ethereal fairy lights, and murals serving as an artistic backsplash, it’s easy to be swept into the land of Shakespeare. I had the pleasure of seeing The Drilling Company perform Shakespeare in the Parking Lot on an actual stage for the first time EVER- special thanks to The Clemente. This small theater company considers themselves to be the second largest free Shakespeare producer in NYC, found on their website (www.drillingcompany.com). Having presented Shakespeare to more than 10,000 patrons over the past 20 plus years, it is no surprise how masterfully they eased back into off-off Broadway.
The space is engulfed in the resonance of romance as the wedding ceremony of King Theseus (played by Lukas Raphael) and Queen Hippolyta (played by Kathleen Simmonds) captures the stage. Hippolyta carries the grace and composure of a queen, but their lack of stillness drowned the naturally enticing nature of the character. A queen does not need to move more than what is required of her. With different dialects, the three widowed queens (played by Jane Bradley, Lizabeth Allen, Elowyn Castle) take their spotlight and showcase their mastery of language.
Through an ingenious use of the infamous “Zoom call,” the audience meets the kinsmen, Palmon and Arcite, whose chemistry can be felt from the very back lawn chair of the lot. Despite the title of their play, these kinsmen prove themselves to be less than noble. Now shackled behind bars, we meet the fools of our story – the jailor (David Marantz) and his vivacious daughter ( Jane Bradley.) Continuing the theme of dialects, the jailor embraced a New York Italian accent, which added a fresh and comical spin on the traditional character. Certainly not to be outshined by his daughter who fully committed to the imprudent and larger-than-life character and stole the show.
After a long development of conflicted feelings of rivalry and betrayal between our protagonists, they commence in an impressively choreographed knife fight. Though the pacing was off, the adherence to the fight had the audience on the edge of their seats. To save us from tragedy and bloodshed, King Theseus finally steps into the shoes of tyranny.
After witnessing our jailor’s daughter descend into madness following the man she adores (and broke out of prison) abandoning her, the doctor (Mary Linehan) comes to her aid with the cure for her insanity – her wooer, the suitor (Remy S). This confused puppy was trained with expertise and a spray bottle, and by the end, showed promise as an alpha canine. He helped the once lovelorn woman find love within him and even if it was a persona, she was cured.
Our story ends not here for Palamon and Arcite as they must hurdle one final obstacle. They must race through the newly constructed Pyramid for the heart of Hippolyta’s sister, Emelia (Liz Livington) who is expected to watch. Alas, she cannot. The ensemble must relay the events to her as she cannot bear witness to the fall of a potential lover. After countless tiring updates from the ensemble, the race has ended, but in the end, there can only be one champion.
What happens when tragedy and love meet? There is a particular numbness that whelms the stage as the cast foregathers around the late kinsmen. One can only hope that it is all worth it.
The metaphorical curtains come down on our Two Noble Kinsmen and the audience is left in shock as there is no traditional happy ending. Nevertheless, the standing ovation was well-deserved. Overall, this production was clean and entertaining – a honorable return to Shakespeare. Their good moments outweighed their off ones, and the audience around me seemed relaxed and engaged. This was a performance the cast and crew should be immensely proud of but can also learn from. I am enthralled to know that this is readily available to the public.
Bravo, and break legs for future performances.
The play is directed by Hamilton Clancy and runs thru July 30.
More information: www.shakespeareintheparkinglot.com