The sun beat relentlessly down on Volunteer Park yesterday, with no mind to the complexion of fair-skinned reviewers. A tragedy could not have been stood for, and even a history would have led to fidgeting. It’s fortunate then that Shakespeare Northwest chose to produce an original comedy, “The Grimm Shakespearean Tales of Uncle Dicky,” written and directed by Carolyn Travis-Hatch.
The Tales is a comedy, with neither pretensions nor aspirations of being anything further. The eponymous Uncle Dicky is in fact Richard III, who has kidnapped the Bard and taken over the troupe in order to direct his own series of short plays, ostensibly with the intent of ceasing his bad-guy image.
There are a series of problems with this premise. Firstly, why a host of mostly unrelated Shakespearean characters are in fact actors in a troupe acting as other characters requires a degree of mental, metaphysical, gymnastics that the reviewer can’t quite summon. Secondly, despite Richard’s grand plan he seems to spend an awful lot of time casting himself in roles of questionable sympathies, even before his rebellious cast tamper with the script. But as often is the case with original comedies, the plot is rather not the point.
Instead, it is imperative that the audience focus on what is important, the jokes. They range from moments of truly clever brilliance to blandness, but they are frequent, constantly reminding the audience that they are sitting in the park on a sunny day, prompting them to enjoy it. And the audience wasn’t the only demographic enjoying, the cast seemed so genuinely enthusiastic about their production that it would have been difficult not to get swept away with them.
As uniquely suited to a Sunday afternoon in the park as the production was, it suffered from the lack of acoustic assistance provided by Museum Lawn. The fast-paced, Shakespearean dialogue was at times was lost in the open space and more than a few lines were stuttered. Despite this, Lydia Randall was a true delight as a, presumably post-breakdown, Ophelia. Her child-like confusion and glee was topped off by the crafty inclusion of floaties in her costume. Bjorn Whitney was hilarious as Hamlet, nailing the delivery of every one of his lines and seeming to be having the time of his life doing it. Carolyn Travis stole her own show as Cleopatra, the contrast between her regal delivery and snappy-one liners prompting mirth in everyone watching.
The troupe of volunteer actors traveled down from Mount Vernon to participate in this weekend’s Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival, but they have several more show’s in their home auditorium, The Rexville-Blackrock Amphitheatre. Laughing along with them isn’t a bad way to pass by an afternoon.
Shakespeare Northwest presents the Skagit Valley Shakespeare Festival, “Summer of Blood”. Upcoming performances of The Grimm Shakespearean Tales of Uncle Dicky are July 19, 7pm, and July 28, 4pm. The Rexville-Blackrock Ampitheatre, free admission, donations welcome. For Details: https://shakesnw.org/