Some Fringe experiments sound promising, but don’t live up to their promise. A case in point: Shall I Compare Thee to a Purple Haze? The Lost Rock Sonnets of William Shakespeare.
The premise is that some lost sonnets of Shakespeare have been found which amazingly resemble pop and rock songs of recent years. It’s a cute idea, but as a colleague of the performer unfortunately states while interrupting to join in a bit, the premise wears thin after a while.
Adam Jonas Segaller produces mashups of Shakespearean poetry and prose with lyrics of classic radio tunes. He picks well known mainstream classics even the younger audiences can get, like that summer classic “I Wish They All Could Be Stratfordian Girls.”
The show does offer its share of laughs (or at least smiles), both from clever turns of phrase and that “a-ha” moment when the audience recognizes which song is being parodied. Among the source inspirations are such artists as Billy Joel, Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.
The big problem is that the twenty-plus song lyrics mostly all sound the same, performed with a faux dramatic voice and an English accent. [Note: despite the promotion picture of Shakespeare with a guitar, the show has no music except for a recorded opening.] The only two attempts that utilize a slightly different voice (Elvis and Johnny Cash) show how more varied forms of impressions or at least vocal variety could have improved the show.
The monotony is relieved by a mid-show break where the tech woman (local DC actress Lisa Lyons) joins Segaller to perform an Elizabethan version of the classic Abbot & Costello routine “Who’s On First?” The material works, either in the original text or with lots of “nays” and “verilys” thrown in.
Another problem is a lack of organization to the presentation. Segaller mostly picks his works at random from aged sheets hanging on a closeline behind him. (Props for delivering a lot of material working without notes, although there were a few noticeable memory gaps.) The material is not structured in any perceptible manner and there is a shortage of thematic relationship or connective narration.
I appreciate Segaller’s knowledge of Shakespeare and his taste in music. I only wish I could have appreciated Shall I Compare Thee to a Purple Haze? The Lost Rock Sonnets of William Shakespeare a little more.
Shall I Compare Thee to a Purple Haze? The Lost Rock Sonnets of William Shakespeare has 3 more performances at The Bedroom – Fort Fringe, 610 L Street NW, Washington, DC.