Friday, August 29, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

‘Dogs of War’ tweaks Shakespeare to highlight working class

By
From page A11 | May 22, 2013 |

In the know

What: “The Dogs of War”

Where: Wyatt Pavilion Theatre, UC Davis

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $5 donation suggested at the door; limited seating — first-come, first-served

Rating: PG-13

Shakespeare’s comedies do boffo box office at summer theater fests. And the tragedies can draw a crowd — when a touring British production of “Hamlet” visited the Mondavi Center a few years ago, it sold out the house.

But Shakespeare’s sequence of British histories — eight plays about ancient monarchs that many moderns have difficulty telling apart — can be a bit of a tough sell. There’s some excellent material in these scripts — the two parts of “Henry IV” feature Sir John Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s most popular creations.

But there are also many scenes that present, as one academic put it, “a great mess of angry and undifferentiated barons, thrashing about in a mass of diffuse narrative.” (And since history was all about men in those days, there aren’t many major female characters, to boot.)

Several theater enterprises have tried abridging these plays into shorter and more linear versions. The Royal Shakespeare Company, for example, assembled a well-received condensation called “The Plantagenets” in the late 1980s, focusing on the royal winners and losers in the dynastic struggle known as the War of the Roses.

But the current production at UC Davis — a fresh construct called “The Dogs of War,” adapted and directed by doctoral student Josy Miller — shifts the focus to the little people, including the ordinary young men pressed into military duty who become cannon fodder in the deadly maneuvering between contending claimants to the crown.

The show’s opening segment includes the ever-dubious Falstaff cynically reviewing a lineup of pathetic-looking conscripts, several of whom speak of family hardship, or are physically unsuited for battle. Falstaff nonetheless pronounces them “good enough to toss; food for powder, food for powder. They’ll fill a pit as well as better. Tush, man, mortal men, mortal men.”

This gloomy view of war continues in the second segment, which focuses on the exploits of Falstaff’s associates Bardolph, Pistol and Nym — cheerfully self-serving small-time crooks, prone to grab for cash when the chaos that surrounds war offers them the opportunity. (Some of them get caught, and we’re told they’ll hang, though we never actually see a noose in this production.)

A third segment presents Shakespeare’s take on Joan of Arc, the common girl who took up sword and armor to defend France, a figure most Americans think of as a heroine and a saint. Shakespeare, however, was writing for a London audience that considered their king a rightful ruler of France and recalled Joan as a charismatic opponent who inflicted great harm on British troops. So in this version, Joan of Arc is presented as a dangerous witch, whose burning at the stake was deserved.

These scenes (from the seldom-produced “Henry VI, Part 1″) are more often discussed in class than acted on stage; one of the pleasures of “The Dogs of War” is the opportunity to glimpse such rare material.

The fourth segment (from “Henry VI, Part 2″) depicts the rebellion of ordinary folk led by Jack Cade, a commoner who claims royal lineage. Cade fires up his ragtag, unruly followers by promising that when he’s king, “there shall be no money, all shall eat and drink on my score.”

At which point a Cade supporter, one Dick the Butcher — perhaps a forebear of our era’s Joe the Plumber — yells, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” a rabble-rousing line (literally!) that continues to ring through the centuries. Cade, of course, can’t keep his mob together; he’s eventually caught while trying to hide out in a rich man’s garden.

The fifth segment alights in “Henry VI, Part 3,” illuminating the high cost to ordinary families of the war between competing English nobles — specifically, the scene in which a two soldiers slaughter other men in battle, the one soldier realizing to his horror that he’s just killed his own father (who had taken up with the other side), the other soldier realizing that he’s just run through his own son.

This is doubled up with a scene from “Richard III” in which numerous ghosts of people done in by the hunchbacked ruler’s scheming arise and tell him “Despair and die!”

Crowned monarchs do speak in “The Dogs of War,” but they appear as projections, larger than life, looming above the smaller human figures on stage. Common themes about the pointlessness and brutality of war weave through the various episodes, but, of course, there isn’t a continuous plot — or continuous set of characters — holding everything together.

This is very much an ensemble piece, with each member of the cast playing at least a half-dozen roles. The hard-working actors are Monica Ammerman, Megan Caton, Micaela Cirimeli, Skylar Collins, Alexandra Greenfield, Aaron Jessup, John Osuji, Aimee Ouellette, Alex Seal, Hanna Sharafian, Shilpa T-hyland, Mitchell VanLandingham, Amanda Vitiello-Jensen, Dan Cato Wilson, Cooper Wise and Wendy Wyatt-Mair.

Scenic designer Travis Kerr uses movable wooden box-frames, candle-like handheld lights and some wicked-looking handheld weaponry (the latter guided by fight choreographer Slater Penney). Costume designer Heather Brown reminds us that commoners wore drab, often dirty clothing in that era (the nobles on the big screen enjoy cleaner and more colorful garb).

Stage manager Angel M. Weber and director Josy Miller coordinate entrances and exits from every angle; Miller takes advantage of the thrust stage at the Wyatt Pavilion, which once was a barn, and the Pavilion’s semi-resemblance to Shakespeare’s Globe.

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Saving Putah Creek: a quiet concert at sunset

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1

     
    Mr. Dolcini goes to Washington

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Winton to be feted for her many years of community work

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Forum explores local mental health services

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Celebrate the Senior Center at Sept. 9 luncheon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Dinner, auction benefit Yolo County CASA

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Solar-cooking workshop set at Food Co-op

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Equestrian eventing competition slated

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Tee off for Davis’ continued prosperity

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A4

    Kids can sign up for a library card and get a free book

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Explorit Science Center: Volunteers supercharge summer camp

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Bodega Marine Laboratory hosts open house

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Local group charts a year’s worth of beauty in flowers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Free blood pressure screenings offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Name Droppers: UCD honors two of its own

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Forum

    Let’s sell the MRAP on eBay

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

     
    Seeing both sides of ‘tank’

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    What if we need MRAP?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

     
    How could tank be helpful?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: C2

    Don’t sentence our police to death

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C2

     
    Will Davis see river water?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    .

    Sports

    Forget the score; focus on the energy brought by Aggies

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Returning seniors, new faces lead promising DHS links squad

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devil golfers return from Scotland with smiles on their faces

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devils scrimmage with Sac

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD-Stanford: the clock is down to counting the minutes

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Sports briefs: DHS girls fall by the slimmest of net margins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6 | Gallery

    Wire briefs: Aces cruise past Cats at Raley

    By Wire and staff reports | From Page: B6

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘The November Man’: Who can be trusted?

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    B Street’s ‘The Ladies Foursome’ is aces

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    Technology makes a great car better

    By Ali Arsham | From Page: C1 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Elaine Dracia Greenberg

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics