The Kraine Theater, 85 E. 4th Street
by Tzipora Kaplan on 3.25.10
BOTTOM LINE: I wanted to love it, I really really did. The Big Lebowski in Shakesperean rhyme? Sounds awesome. Execution-wise, not so much.
Caveat: There seemed to be a major lighting problem the night I went, so my feelings about this piece may or may not be colored by the fact that I simply couldn't see anything. You should take what I say here with a grain of salt.
Overall, Two Gentlemen of Lebowski has an impressive script that remains faithful to the movie The Big Lebowski while taking on the grandiose and presentational Shakespearean style. If you're familiar with the film, there are some funny moments in which its classic and indelible lines come out in Shakespearean terms ("be I wrong," anyone?). The actors (from what I could see of the show) look like an able group. The production values are sufficient, and since the set consists mostly of folding chairs, the projections are cute and add flavor.
This is my question: since you can't improve upon the movie, why bother? Sure, diehards will always go see anything Lebowski-related, but if you're going to redo a classic (and I refer to both Shakespeare and Lebowski with that word), what is your motive? Watching the show, I didn't know why I was there, except to satisfy my own curiosity. But does that a good theatre experience make?
Besides, the magic of The Big Lebowski, as with most films by the Coen brothers, lies in the language. That's what makes The Big Lebowski iconic. There's nothing super special about the plot- there have been better caper films, and better mysteries aplenty. Nobody talks about the plot of the movie, because it's as silly and devoid of gravitas as a plot can be.
When people talk about The Big Lebowski, they quote the script: "hey, man, there's a beverage here!", "Shomer Shabbos!", or "[Insert any number of other lines, unpublishable because they all have cuss words]!" What's special are the words, the dialogue. When you take that away by using a different dialect, like Shakespearean rhyme, what makes the wafer-thin plot interesting? In my opinion, not that much. I appreciate the monumental writing effort of Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, I think it is very inventive, and I did laugh here and there. But mostly, I was just bored.
The lesson here: What makes The Big Lebowski
special is the "parlance of our times." Therefore, it doesn't do anybody much good to throw that out, and re-create the plot using a linguistic form that died centuries ago.
(Two Gentlemen of Lebowski
plays at the Kraine Theater, 85 E. 4th Street, through April 4. Performances are Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays at 7:30pm, Thursdays at 8pm, and Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, with no performance Sunday March 28. Tickets are $20 ($16 students and seniors); they were available on smarttix.com
, but the rest of the run is sold out. Try getting to the box office early to ask about a waiting list. For more info, visit horsetrade.info