Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shakespeare in the... err... theater, but still free

Performance: Free For All: Twelfth Night
Theater: The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F Street NW
Metro: Gallery Place-green/red or Archives/Navy Memorial-Green. Directions here.
Genre: Comedy
Cost: FREE! (see below for details on the lottery)
Dates: Through Sept. 5
Rating: 5/5 Starving Artists

There are few things more enjoyable than seeing Shakespeare performed excellently.  Seeing Shakespeare performed excellent for free may be one of them.

Every summer for the past 20 years, DC’s Shakespeare Theater Company has offered a free show to the DC community in their annual Free For All.  And this year’s offering is Twelfth Night.  What’s exceptional about this program is that they offer their highest caliber work to the community. Although you might expect a no-frills production, they don’t skimp in any noticeable way.  They present their usual beautiful set, fantastic directing, and stunning acting, but they do it free of charge.

Twelfth Night is brilliantly acted across the board. Each performer is excellent, with standout performances by Chuck Cooper, Tom Story, and Nancy Robinette as Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Maria respectively.  Everyone did a great job of connecting the audience to the material.  The show was quite funny and the actors struck a nice balance between bringing out the humor in the script and creating a few hysterical moments of their own.  But the show was completely stolen by Floyd King as the Jester, Feste.  His report with the audience, his knowing looks, and his impeccable timing would have been worth the price of admission even if there was a price of admission.  We saw King at Studio in The Seafarer in 2009 and back then I described him as “stirring”.  Here he’s not so much stirring as just plain brilliant.  As the Jester, King gets to be hysterically funny throughout, but he also gets to be the one character who gets it, the one who knows, like the audience, that he’s surrounded by fools.  And the connection that he creates with us as a result creates that special kind of theatrical magic that is electrifying.  If you’re skeptical about seeing Twelfth Night, see it for King.  

It’s easy to see why STC chose Twelfth Night for this year’s freebee.  It’s easy to get into.  It’s one of the funnier of the Bards Comedies, and with only one set of twins, it’s easy enough to follow, no matter your Shakespeare proficiency.  The cast does a wonderful job of opening the play up to the audience and keeping them involved.  The set and costumes are beautifully simple, and simply beautiful.  There’s one week left to see this show for nothing, and it’s not to be missed.  How fun to be able to give out a 5/5 Starving Artists this early in the season.  And you don’t have to go hunting for deals, because this one is free for all!


The way the lottery works: Instead of having potential theater patrons stand in line for hours in the DC summer heat, The Shakespeare Theater Company has created a lottery system. You can enter the lottery online in a matter of seconds by creating an account with STC. For evening performances, you need to enter the lottery between midnight and 1pm on the day of the performance. For matinees, you need to enter the day before.

STC will send you an email letting you know if you have won tickets. If you have, congratulations, you can pick up your tickets between 4pm (or 11:30am) and 30 min before the start of the show. However, if you have not won tickets, you still try to get tickets via the standby line. All of the tickets that are not pick-up by winners 30 minutes before the show are released to the standby line. On the night we went, there were tons of empty seats so you should certainly still be able to get in.

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