From the folks who brought us Clowns' Labours Lost and Spamlet comes another spirited desecration of Shakespeare: Twelfth Dog Night, which takes the Bard's romantic comedy, Twelfth Night, and spices it up with songs made popular by the 1970s rock band, Three Dog Night.
The zany show, conceived and directed by Matt Walker for the Troubadour Theatre Company, plays at Burbank, CA's Falcon Theatre Dec. 16-Jan. 16.
Not only does the production incorporate such hit tunes as "Joy to the World," "One Is the Loneliest Number," "Mama Told Me Not To Come," and "Just an Old Fashioned Love Song," but Shakespeare's story of cross dressing and misplaced affections will be fitted out with stiltwalkers, clowns and trampoline artists.
Other works by Shakespeare include Othello, Macbeth and Julius Caesar. Other works by the Troubadour company include Butt Pirates of the Caribbean.
Author-director Walker has been on a clowning kick ever since graduating from Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Clown College. "I took everything I learned there and incorporated it into Clowns' Labours Lost and also here," he told Playbill On-Line (Dec. 14). "We developed this physical vocabulary. So the actors use trampolines to get on and off the stage. Antonio the Pirate comes on in stilts... We've cut the text up pretty good, but we don't monkey with the actual internal stuff. We keep the speeches integral." As for the integration of rock music into Bardland, Walker notes that he first tried it in Spamlet. "Nirvana's song `Lithium' was in that. Plus Ophelia and Hamlet sang, `I Like New York in June (How About You?).' We've found that music really does help move the story along... For Twelfth Dog Night, the songs really work into the story. When Malvolio gets put in jail, he sings `One is the Loneliest Number.' When Viola first arrives in town, she sings `I've Never Been to Spain' -- only we insert the name of the town we're touring in. So, for example, she might sing, `I've never Been to Burbank.'
Walker says the company is already considering Shakespearean chicanery for next year's show. Ideas actually being batted around include "Romeo and Julio," Macbeth, with the three witches portrayed as the band "Earth Wind & Fire;" and King John, with the king being Elton John.
As for the Falcon Theatre, February 2000 will bring a somewhat more sedate production than that of the Troubadour troupe: an adaptation of Mark Twain's 1894 novel, "Pudd'nhead Wilson," about a small-town lawyer who uncovers the villainy of a man capable not only of murder but of selling his own mother into slavery. Commissioned by Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, which first produced the work, Falcon executive director Meryl Friedman penned the adaptation in 1994.
For tickets and information on Falcon Theatre productions call (818) 955- 8101.
-- By David Lefkowitz