Theater review: ‘Madman William’ at the Lounge Theatre
Alas, “Madman William” doesn’t deliver much of a punch line in a shaky Kaleidoscope Theatre Ensemble production at the Lounge Theatre. This despite sly allusions lurking in just about every line of Naomi Claire Wallace’s meta-theatrical comedy — not only to Shakespeare’s plays and bio, but to film adaptations and other artifacts of his 400 years of cultural saturation.
That timelessness is the basis for a surreal twist in which the titular protagonists of his hit tragedies, having achieved their own quasi-existence and tired of endlessly reenacting their dismal fates, seek refuge in a pub to plot revenge against their creator. In a swipe at pretentious resettings, they appear in 20th century garb: Macbeth (Dane H. Haines II) as Hitler, Lear (Clyde FT Small) as a Willy Loman-esque sad sack, and Hamlet (Mike Gerdwagen) as — well, God only knows. A pugnacious Mercutio (Phillip J. Wheeler) elbows his way into their existential kvetching.
It’s all framed as a dreamscape in the troubled mind of young William Shakespeare (Luke LaGraff), struggling with writer’s block at the start of his career. Setting aside questions of how a dreamer in 1600 could foresee, say, the movie Hamlets of Olivier, Gibson or Branagh, the play’s more fundamental limitation is its reliance on the self-evidence of this kind of name-dropping rather than using it for much more than passing in-joke references.
–- Philip Brandes
“Madman William,” the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 27. From Sept. 2, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Sept. 18. $14. (310) 383-6912 or www.kaleidoscopetheater.org. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
Photo: Dane H. Haines II, from left, Clyde FT Small and Mike Gerdwagen. Credit: Glen S. Jimenez.