(Rebecca Mead’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 10/6.)
Ira Glass may have overstated his case when, after attending a performance of Shakespeare in the Park this summer, he tweeted that he found King Lear “not relatable.” But Glass is surely not alone in finding the Bard hard: all those byzantine complexities of plot, all that highly wrought language. Might it not be a relief for Shakespeare to be presented in a way that emphasizes the lower entertainment values of the plays? Such was the thinking of David Hudson, who is one of the co-founders of the Three Day Hangover theatre company. Since 2013, Hudson and his colleagues have performed textually divergent interpretations of “Hamlet” and “Romeo and Juliet,” not behind a prissy proscenium but in the differently challenging arena of a crowded bar.
“We discovered that there is this little niche market of people who were excited about going to a bar and letting go, but also seeing some great Shakespeare,” Hudson explained the other evening at Quinn’s Bar & Grill, on West Forty-fourth Street. The experience was, he said, “fully immersive.” For “R+J: Star-Cross’d Death Match,” which ran for several weeks in a midtown bar last summer, audience members were handed either red or blue flip cups upon arrival, to indicate their allegiance to the Capulets or the Montagues.