Pages of cut-and-spliced Shakespeare text serve as the foundation for the new folk-rock musical, Many a Good Hanging Prevents a Bad Marriage, beginning previews Feb. 13 at the Manhattan Playhouse.
Alkis Papoutsis and playhouse artistic director Diana Walker co-conceived the new project, blending characters, famous lines and conflicts into what they call “a brand new play by William Shakespeare.” It officially opens Feb. 27 for an indefinite run.
In three movements, “Courting,” “Relationships” and “Marriage,” an older couple meet a younger couple and reflects upon their younger selves, with the help of a master of ceremonies, to the music of Dan Schamir and Joe Mulligan (with text drawn from the Bard).
Walker told Playbill On-Line she drew from perhaps half the plays and dozens of sonnets to come up with Shakespeare’s choicest takes on relationships. She got the idea for the 75-minute, intermissionless show after seeing an earlier musicalized Shakespeare-sonnets revue put together by Papoutsis, who directs Many a Good Hanging.
“It’s our view of Shakespeare’s view of love: young love, old love,” she said. “It goes from the first kind of euphoric courtship to ‘love as sport’ and then marriage, which lends more specifically to the ‘many a good hanging’ line.” Musical sequences include “I am your spaniel” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “To be or not to be” from Hamlet, Caliban’s “Be not afeared” from The Tempest, Benedick’s “The world must be peopled” from Much Ado About Nothing and “The quality of mercy” from The Merchant of Venice, among others.
The company includes Gregory Arata, Douglas MacKaye Harrington, Christina Purcell, Ron McClary and Diana Walker. Papoutsis previously directed Hamlet and Cafe Society for the Playhouse.
The three-year-old Manhattan Playhouse troupe performs in the 700-seat auditorium High School of Graphic Communication Arts, but both the 90 seat audience and the performers are placed on the large stage. The company has performed classics and new works at the space, offering workshops and classes in exchange for residency.
Manhattan Playhouse is at 439 W. 49th St. Tickets are $20. For reservations, call 245-7798.
-- By Kenneth Jones