LOVE GOES TOWARD LOVE: A Shakesqueerian Exploration of Love and Longing
A small crowd gathered at the Austin Public for LOVE GOES TOWARD LOVE last Friday, seated here and there in the round in one of the studios typically used for film work. In full disclosure to my Broadway World readers, I confess that I am just not that in to Shakespeare. I wish to embarrassingly confess that despite playing a couple choice roles the Bard wrote, I still can't shake the premature exposure I had in sixth grade to reading Julius Caesar and performing excruciatingly bad scenes, toga and all, for unenthused audiences of other twelve year olds. So as I took a seat next to my wife and perused the program, my usual angst about Shakespeare arose. What if I don't follow? I'll need Cliff's Notes to do the review! Whyohwhy couldn't Broadway World reviewer and Shakespeare lover Lynn Beaver come to this production instead of me? That said, I was also excited about this production of LOVE GOES TOWARD LOVE, A Shakesqueerian exploration of love and longing. As a lesbian, I jumped on the chance to review such a production.
The audience encircled an empty space, save for a bench the actors brought with them for the first scene. We were greeted warmly and informally. LOVE GOES TOWARD LOVE is a full-on exploration of nothing but the words of Shakespeare and the actors portraying his roles. There are no complicated sets, lighting, costuming or distractions in the way. Actors Becca Musser, Taylor Flanagan and guest performers Amelia Turner and Bridget Gates (a rotating cast performs the center scenes in each evening's presentation) do the heavy lifting from several of Shakespeare's duets. It's a labor of love in real life for Musser and Flanagan, who are dedicated to bringing the experience of queer relationship, and moreover, relationship without gender to the forefront in this work. Interestingly, from my perspective, the queer aspect of this work was a non-event. It's a testament, I presume, to the work done in this piece, that nary a scene was made awkward by using same sex couples to interpret it.
In the first act, Musser and Flanagan have taken scenes from several of Shakespeare's plays and, as they mention in the program, "explored new ways to approach the moments and characters." In the second act, they include guest performers to their own concept of queer relationship. Flanagan and Musser give us performances that feel contemporary and approachable, even as Romeo and Juliet in the third act. Guest artists Amelia Turner and Bridget Gates inject variety into the 90 minute piece performing scenes that include A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Bridget Gates gives a strong performance and Amelia Turner shines with poise and grace.
In fact all the actresses in the performance I attended gave us strong performances. They were aided by quite a pedigree of consulting directors that includes, among others, Rudy Ramirez, Robert Matney and Jenny Lavery.
This is an evening of experimenting with Shakespeare and pulling it off without gimmicks or outlandish concepts. It's also not a complete play, nor is any evening the same as the next. While that makes it hard to review LOVE GOES TOWARD LOVE, you can count on an evening of Shakespeare that will be performed with expertise and ease. It's a worthy experiment in which to participate.
LOVE GOES TOWARD LOVE: A SHAKESQUEERIAN EXPLORATION OF LOVE AND LONGING
Adapted from the plays from William Shakespeare
Songs composed by Hannah Hagar, Kristin Hall and Jon Watson
Produced by Taylor Flanagan, Becca Musser and Something for Nothing Theatre Co.
Austin Public, 1143 Northwestern Ave, Austin
May 26th- June 4th
Sliding scale $20 - $30 ($15 for veteran/senior/student/artist tickets