January 25, 2012 – Owing to a cascade of public interest in my intellectual life, I have finally relented and set myself down here to recount last Friday’s attendance of Shakespeare’s later fantasy play: “The Tempest”. It was put on by a troupe of Wayne State University drama students on the second floor of the Park Bar and Bucharest Grill on Park Street in Detroit, Michigan. The second floor of the building has been structured to look like a post-Dresden theatre, with rows of comfortable, cushioned office chairs seating around 40 people with a bar serving alcoholic beverages before the start of the play and during intermission. There was a certain menace to the atmosphere which is why I took a seat at the outer perimeter with quick access to the exit in the event of a fire.
Before we sat ourselves in the theatre, my colleagues who accompanied me, agreed to have dinner at the Union Street Bar and Grill. My friends were Mark the Brit, Mark the Professor and John “Kubrick” Wier. The first Mark is called the Brit because he really comes from Coventry, England and speaks with that awful authentic British accent. Mark the Professor is called that because he really is a professor of speech at Schoolcraft Community College. John Wier is not really a Kubrick but, instead, like this writer, a fan of Stanley Kubrick. I have the exasperating habit of giving nicknames to people to make it easier to know of whom we are speaking.
And speaking of Stanley Kubrick, the Union Street’s interior could easily be the scene of some horrific event in one of the auteur’s more macabre movies.
The dining area is flooded in reddish tones suggesting carnage. Only the animated mumblings of customers dispel the fear that one is seated in an abattoir or charnel house.
Let’s get the condemnations out of the way now. The restaurant was Mark the Professor’s idea. He shall wander the land accursed forever. We were given a table quickly enough by a young man who clearly had been programmed into believing that the estaminet was “high end” and very, very fashionable. We were promptly greeted by our waitress who bore all the characteristics of a WSU student trying to make her tuition. She was humorless. We ordered cocktails, black bean soup with onions and sour cream, steak sandwiches of various temperatures; I, of course, had mine a very macho and snooty “very rare” while the others demeaned themselves in my eyes with “medium rare” to “medium well” instructions. I was so humiliated. Of course, I did not know that the cut of meat we were about to stuff down our throats was similar to Ricardo Montalban’s “Corinthian leather”.
The soup, as Mark the Brit charitably commented, was “surprisingly light” for a soup renowned for its heartiness. It reminded not of Cuba and would have been an appropriate “soup du jour” for the local Old Country Buffet. The steak sandwiches were built-up with a slice of gristly sirloin that caused my jaw to cramp after the play had started. I struggled the rest of the night with temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction. Fortunately, no intestinal complaints were heard for the next five hours.
The play itself was put on by a troupe of WSU drama students. The admission was a steep $40.00 per person which gave the impression that the production was conceived with high standards and a detailed eye for quality. You can probably tell from my tone of composition that the play was bare-boned. The opening scene with the storm raging against the ship was, on this stage, a pair of sails attached to some wooden poles with the expected drum rolls imitating thunder, strobe lights suggesting lightning and a large fan blowing air at the canvass. It was all right, really, and was a clever way to cover up the complete lack of financial backing for this challenging project.
As I sat and watched the first scene, I did take note that the theatre was heated mostly by space heaters, another one of those grim reminders of what can happen even with the very best of intentions. I kept my feet pointed toward the exit door.
The play was put on purely from the Bard’s original script without that frustrating “modernistic” revisionism I find repugnant. What was lacking, however, was a sense of authenticity in the way the actor’s elocuted – the way they pronounced the poetry of Wm. Shakespeare. The actors were all American (which is fine) who could not replicate that original English lilt that imparted to the play its poetic timbre or rhythm. They, moreover, had the tendency to slur or garble some of the most important lines which, theoretically, could defeat a novice audience’s efforts to know what the story was about.
I have to go now and have lunch. I am planning to visit a Polish restaurant in Hamtramck and then make my way to Federal Court to interpret for some Iraqi wanker. I shall complete this revue in due course.