Rude Mechs' Fixing Troilus and Cressida

The third show in the Fixing Shakespeare series makes his mess of a play about the Trojan War hilarious and even engrossing

Crystal Bird Caviel as Cressida, and Noel Gaulin as Troilus in Fixing Troilus and Cressida (Photo by Bret Brookshire)

It's easy to forget that Shakespeare wrote a play about the Trojan War, because it almost never gets produced. Troilus and Cressida isn't as cohesive as his major works, and he uses some thematic threads that don't make for the most awesome screen adaptation ever – like, maybe it's OK to compromise in love if you're trying to save your own neck. Romeo and Juliet it ain't.

Enter the Fixing Shakespeare series, courtesy of the Rude Mechanicals and Kirk Lynn as the credited writer. The third show in the series, Fixing Troilus and Cressida follows the same development concept: Replace all of Shakespeare's language with contemporary English and then edit like crazy. The result, as in the first two installments, still retains a fair share of Shakespeare's broader rhythms, in that characters grab your attention and speechify for a bit and then give the other person a chance to respond. But then some of the lines are reduced to a dumbfounded, "Well, what the fuck?" or some such, and the result is hilarious and even engrossing.

As in all of the Rudes' work, the ensemble is everything. Everyone is by turns hilarious and engaging. Comic timing and physicality are key, and each member of the cast finds that sweet spot of where to place their character on the spectrum between performative and natural.

You almost hate to highlight any one performer, but I'll do it anyway: Hooray for the choice to turn Agamemnon into Agamomnen, lady commander of the Greeks (Lauren Lane). Lane would be delightful to watch even if she were just sitting in the corner drinking a cup of coffee, so imagine the delight in seeing her play the part of the commander of the Greek forces. And not just the commander, but one who is just trying so hard to get everybody to do what she says but something's not clicking with her management style and can't the war just be over already so they can go home? Please? It's also so pleasurable to watch an actor of her caliber embrace the physical silliness of the part in service of the larger narrative.

Another note on the ensemble: Let this production be submitted as evidence that casting all sorts of different people in a show together can make the audience experience more rewarding. At the basest level, everybody just looks and sounds different from one another, and the visual and auditory experiences become more interesting as a result.

Staged by Alexandra Bassiakou Shaw in Zach Theatre's Nowlin Rehearsal Studio, the house is intimate enough to allow audiences to see close reactions and smaller actions, like Ulysses' (Jeff Mills) "What the fuck" lines (there are lots of F-bombs in this script) or Paris' (Derek Kolluri) single-minded round of triangular croquet/lacrosse (not sure which). The set (Amanda Perry) is appropriately simple, as with the other productions in the series.

The ending of Fixing Troilus and Cressida carries the Rudes' signature flair, turning a tragic finish (spoiler: Troy loses) into a quick bit that's oddly life-affirming. It feels a shade tacked-on, but seeing as the company is doing a repair job on a mess of an original, it works out.

Fixing Troilus and Cressida

Zach Theatre Nowlin Rehearsal Studio, 1426 Toomey
Through March 31
Running time: 2 hr., 30 min.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Rude Mechs
line upon line percussion's <i>The city wears a slouch hat</i>
line upon line percussion's The city wears a slouch hat
John Cage and Kenneth Patchen's experimental radio play proved an ideal vehicle for the creative daredevils of line upon line and the Rude Mechs to revive together

Robert Faires, Dec. 7, 2018

Groundswell Theatre Company's <i>Bear Eats Bear</i>
Groundswell Theatre Company's Bear Eats Bear
This site-specific audio work puts the audience in a postapocalyptic world to show how central art is to the human experience

Elizabeth Cobbe, Nov. 3, 2017

More Rude Mechanicals
Rude Mechs' <i>Requiem for Tesla</i>
Rude Mechs' Requiem for Tesla
The Austin theatre collective's biography of inventor Nikola Tesla literally makes sparks fly

T. Lynn Mikeska, Dec. 9, 2016

The Rude Mechs' <i>Field Guide</i>
The Rude Mechs' Field Guide
There's much to ponder in the second draft of the company's mash-up of Dostoyevsky, stand-up comedy, and spiritual belief

Elizabeth Cobbe, April 15, 2016

More Arts Reviews
Zach Theatre's <i>Hedwig and the Angry Inch</i>
Zach Theatre's Hedwig and the Angry Inch
This revival gives the trans singer's identity crisis a punk lullaby with rockin' style

Robert Faires, Feb. 22, 2019

Mary Moody Northen Theatre's <i>The Three Musketeers</i>
Mary Moody Northen Theatre's The Three Musketeers
A contemporary script, powerful acting, and fantastic swordplay combine to create a heroic journey that's fun and easy to get lost in

Trey Gutierrez, Feb. 22, 2019

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Southwest Theatre Productions' <i>Sweat</i>
Southwest Theatre Productions' Sweat
This production brings home the plight of the American blue-collar worker with sympathy

Jan. 25, 2019

Street Corner Arts' <i>We Are Proud to Present ...</i>
Street Corner Arts' We Are Proud to Present ...
This production is more than exceptional theatre; it asks thought-provoking questions about authority, perspective, and intention

Dec. 7, 2018


Rude Mechs, Rude Mechanicals, Fixing Shakespeare, Kirk Lynn, Lauren Lane, Jeff Mills, Derek Kolluri, Amanda Perry

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle