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
www.rudemechs.com
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  

READ MORE
More Rude Mechs
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

The Secret History of the Off Center
The Secret History of the Off Center
Looking back at the former home of the Rude Mechs and why it mattered

Robert Faires, June 30, 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
"Jonathan Muzasz: Stained Slabs" at the Butridge
With his solo show, the artist revs up the gallery by bringing in the street in eye-catching style

Melany Jean, July 13, 2018

"...of Warp and Weft" at Davis Gallery
Using wood and cheesecloth, Caprice Pierucci and Charles Heppner's mutation of form and fiber is beautiful even as it is foreboding

Melany Jean, July 13, 2018

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Shrewd Productions' <i>The Afterparty</i>
Shrewd Productions' The Afterparty
We’re invited to hobnob with history’s great minds up on the astral plane

June 29, 2018

Zach Theatre's <i>Sunday in the Park With George</i>
Zach Theatre's Sunday in the Park With George
Zach relalizes the Sondheim musical with near flawless execution but has little in the way of emotional reward

June 15, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

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

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

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