Theatre executive director, Coronado Playhouse, www.cornadoplayhouse.com
The same week that the Coronado Playhouse's free production of As You Like It opened, HBO released Kenneth Branagh's long-awaited film version of Shakespeare's pastoral comedy. Originally scheduled for theatrical release in 2006, the film went straight to cable with the DVD release this month. Branagh presents a puzzling mixture of East meets West in 19th-century Japan with sumo wrestling, kabuki, and samurai warriors. The Forest of Arden (actually a West Sussex park with lovely Japanese gardens) is peopled by characters in kimonos as well as Dickensian garb. Regardless of personal reaction to the cultural mix (you'll love or hate the concept), see the DVD for some outstanding acting. Bryce Dallas Howard (Rosalind) and Romola Garai (Celia) enchant as they attract the DeBoys brothers played by David Oyelowo and Adrian Lester. Alfred Molina (Touchstone) cavorts, Kevin Kline (Jaques) shines, while Brian Blessed does double duty as both dukes.
As You Like It
(England) 2006, HBO Home Video
Artistic director, San Diego Shakespeare Society
My desert island Shakespeare movies: Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet -- I love this movie! Using Shakespeare's original text, it transforms what's often mistakenly portrayed in a staid, slow way into something fast-paced, vital, immediate, relevant, and just darned sexy. The soundtrack is phenomenal, the imagery startling, the performances pitched perfectly, and what's more, it's short. Much Ado About Nothing: Shakespeare Retold is a modern retelling set around a regional TV news show. Bea and Ben are the anchors, Hero the weather girl, Claudio the sportscaster, and Leonato the producer. Painfully funny, completely true to the play, and the setting is remarkably apt. It's emotionally engaging and clever. Packaged with a brilliant Taming of the Shrew set in Parliament with Kate as the leader of the Conservative Party!
I'd include Kenneth Branagh's A Midwinter's Tale -- about an actor desperate to direct and star in Hamlet -- but it's not yet on DVD.
William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (Special Edition)
(USA) 1996, Twentieth Century Fox
(England) 2005, BBC
Guest curator, MoPA's The Film's the Thing: Shakespeare on the Screen
When asked to curate a Shakespeare film series, the dilemma was what to choose. I could only screen four titles, so that left plenty of films I loved but couldn't show. Chief among these is Al Pacino's Looking for Richard, a passionate exploration of Shakespeare by examining a single production of Richard III. It should be shown to every high school student to inspire a love of the Bard. Here's a wickedly funny take on the Bard: Theater of Blood. Vincent Price plays a bad Shakespearean actor who seeks revenge on the critics who slammed his performances. Each murder is a scene from Shakespeare and Diana Rigg plays his devoted daughter. Absolutely inspired B horror!
Finally, a bold and bawdy Taming of the Shrew done in the commedia dell'arte style. A buff Marc Singer squares off against Fredi Olster to deliver one of the liveliest battles of the sexes.
Pacino: An Actor's Vision (Chinese Coffee / Looking for Richard / The Local Stigmatic)
(Chinese Coffee/Looking for Richard/The Local Stigmatic) (USA) 1996, Twentieth Century Fox
Theater of Blood
(England) 1973, MGM
The Taming of the Shrew (Broadway Theatre Archive)
(USA) 1976, Kultur Video