Veteran performer Tim Mooney returns to the KC Fringe Festival with another one of his lighting-paced distillations of Shakespeare—this time, the historical tragedy, Julius Caesar.
For those not familiar with Mooney’s brand of Shakespeare performance, know that he not only adapts and condenses the play, but scribes helpful and often hilarious expository asides: he narrates passages he’s jumping over, offers personal (usually facetious) commentary on character behavior or tropes in the play, and provides fascinating information that contextualizes the script to its original, Elizabethan audience.
Mooney’s deliberate, thought-filled process in adapting this play is evident in his program notes to us. Whether they translate into his rapidly declaimed adaptation is less evident. But for his explanatory asides to us, intricate actor-interpreter maneuverings (such as the ironic delivery of a final, well-known speech) would have been lost. Indeed, while I never ceased to be impressed and delighted by Mooney’s virtuosic performance, I could not help but wonder what falls to the wayside in this style of performance, and whether that’s permissible. Shakespearean adaptations and performance have often been used to highlight, question, resist, and subvert. And here we are, audience members in 2017 USA, with a play that investigates the face of tyranny, and posits violence as necessary for the sake of political freedom. Mooney says of his adaptation that he hoped to “get a real sense, perhaps, of just why Shakespeare “carved” this material in the particular way he did.” I felt myself longing for a stronger glimpse of why we needed to see this particular play, at this particular juncture in time.
Critical commentary aside, Mooney’s approach creates an enjoyable, holistic, theatrical experience for the audience. From welcoming each audience member at the entrance (with stickers!) to explaining the anachronistic conventions by which the audience will participate and speak their lines as the character, “Citizens,” Mooney sets the entire space— not just the stage— for his production. What’s left, is for the audience to hold on to their seats and resist blinking for the next 60 minutes as Mooney solo-performs his way through over 20 characters, several oratory speeches, a couple death scenes and two nifty on-stage costume transitions. Regardless of whether you are a Shakespeare fan or not, this is a must-see—a theatrical treat, really—for KC Fringe-goers.