Presented by The Gunpowder Plot & Cambridge Historical Tours
From the works of William Shakespeare
Directed by Gabriel Kuttner, Daniel Berger-Jones & Sarah Gazdowicz
November 25-December 11, 2016
820 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge Historical Tours on Facebook
Review by Travis Manni
(Cambridge, MA) Everybody knows that the events leading up to any action sequence, while often necessary, can feel boring and overlong. Sometimes you just want to skip to the good stuff and watch everybody fight or use their superpowers to kick some serious ass. While Shakespeare often preferred battles with swords, though one could argue his battles of wit are just as exhilarating, what made his scenes of confrontation so mesmerizing was the use of tension, and The Gunpowder Plot’s production of A Palpable Hit: Shakespeare Fight Night sure knew how to tap into this.
In A Palpable Hit, twelve fight scenes from ten different Shakespeare shows are reenacted for the audience to laugh, wince, and gawk at. There are, of course, the fights that involve mortal danger, such as scenes from MacBeth and Romeo and Juliet, and there are more comical fights that rely on slapstick, such the reluctant duel between Viola (disguised as Cesario) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night. Obviously, there isn’t a singular plot that connects one scene to the next, but a Narrator (Michael Anderson) provides small quips of dialogue to introduce each new fight.
This show works well because the actors performing are able to slip in and out of each play, world, and its characters without hesitation. Thought all were clad in plain black clothes and shoes, there was never any confusion as to which actor was playing which character. This speaks volumes to the level of commitment each player put in, and it was thrilling to see what they did with each new scene.
The staging of the fights was also handled in a way that felt original and fresh, and knowing that members of the cast create the choreography (Fight Directors: Angie Jepson & Omar Robinson) only made it that much more impressive, proving how willing they were to tell these stories. Although, knowing this is the same production company responsible for Shit-Faced Shakespeare, you know you’re in good hands.
My personal favorite moment in A Palpable Hit involved the witches from Macbeth, played by Angie Jepson, Sarah Gazdowicz, and Marge Dunn, who ran to the outskirts of the audience and used flashlights as they spoke. Each actor was so well synced, yet distinct, that it made for an eerie and captivating moment of immersive theatre. The wrestling scene from As You Like It was also well directed, intense yet still remaining light-hearted in humor.
While I did enjoy this show, I have to address its more gory moments. No, there are no exploding blood scenes. However, Othello’s strangulation of Desdemona lasted for probably two straight minutes, and was so graphic in nature I wasn’t sure if I should cringe in genuine fear or stare in awe at the emotionally loaded and brutally honest portrayal of death. Professionally stunning as it was, A Palpable Hit is not for the faint of heart.
A Palpable Hit is a fun and engaging Shakespearean experience for anybody who is either familiar with the English playwright’s work, or completely new to it. While it may seem overwhelming to have fight scene after fight scene thrown at you, it was great to see new interpretations of each one without feeling over stimulated. And it’s always exciting to explore what Shakespeare’s ambiguous stage directions, “They fight,” could’ve meant alongside a theatre company that holds a great love and appreciation for the playwright.
A Palpable Hit runs for 2 hours with one intermission. To purchase tickets, click here.