Shakespeare’s Sonnets OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Ruby Washington

  • TM


Opening Night:
October 7, 2014
October 12, 2014

Theater: BAM Howard Gilman Opera House / 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11217


Iambic pentameter gets a surreal makeover in this pop-opera romp through Shakespeare’s sonnets from director Robert Wilson and composer Rufus Wainwright. The Bard’s enigmatic poems are pared down to 25 selections, set to everything from medieval German Minnesang to cabaret rock and performed by Bertolt Brecht’s historic Berliner Ensemble. As pallid, genderqueer dramatis personæ, the virtuosic performers smirk and sneer through expressionistic slapstick, while Wilson’s signature sculpting of time, light, and gesture evokes an absurdist dream.

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Shakespeare’s Sonnets

    Words Felt, if Not Quite Fathomed
    Robert Wilson Puts ‘Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ (in German) Onstage

    Charles Isherwood

    October 8, 2014: No theater director working today has a signature as recognizable, and as unvarying, as Robert Wilson. Whether he is staging a Wagner or a Monteverdi opera, an Ibsen play, a piece about the life of Marina Abramovic or a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets, as he currently is at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Mr. Wilson employs the same stylistic markers: starkly minimalist settings, luminous backdrops on which bands of glowing light slowly rise or fall, and actors in bright white makeup looking like merry or morbid ghouls, gliding across the stage in ritualistic movement. Shakespeare’s Sonnets, a mostly ponderous evening that Mr. Wilson created in collaboration with the Berliner Ensemble, features music by the singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, and uses 25 poems as a springboard for a bizarre, dreamlike pageant. But neither Mr. Wainwright’s appealing music nor Shakespeare’s verse — not so bad either — plays the leading role here. That belongs, as always, to Mr. Wilson.

  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF Shakespeare’s Sonnets

    Robert Wilson, Rufus Wainwright, and the Berliner Ensemble take on Shakespeare's famously enigmatic poems

    Zachary Stewart

    October 8, 2014: William Shakespeare never meant for any of his sonnets to take the stage. Still, are we really surprised that these poems of unrequited desire and mortality, authored by the greatest English playwright, are overflowing with dramatic potential? Director Robert Wilson and composer Rufus Wainwright, with the help of Bertolt Brecht's legendary Berliner Ensemble, have adapted 25 of the sonnets for the stage, with shockingly beautiful results. Shakespeare's Sonnets is now making its U.S. debut at BAM's Howard Gilman Opera House, after a 2009 premiere in Berlin. One might assume that a collaboration of such huge artistic personalities is doomed to suffer from too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen syndrome, resulting in an array of incoherencies. Happily to the contrary, each creative voice takes up the space it rightfully deserves, blending into a complete event in which no element feels out of place.

  • VULTURE REVIEW OF Shakespeare’s Sonnets

    Theater Review: Shakespeare’s Sonnets Turns Sourest

    Jesse Green

    October 8, 2014: Funny thing about the avant-garde: Each new wave looks a lot like the last one. So it will come as no surprise to those who have seen a previous Robert Wilson work that his latest New York offering is crammed with his clichés: whiteface, slow-motion gliding, silhouettes, stylized hand gestures, video screens, fluorescent light, floating objects, rude noises, gibberish, wacky wigs, and impenetrable symbolism. What is a bit unexpected is that these familiar and often-amusing techniques are here applied to existing material that resists them so utterly. Resists and succumbs — for Shakespeare’s Sonnets, in which 25 of the 154 sonnets Shakespeare first published in 1609 are set to a musical score by Rufus Wainwright and deconstructed by Wilson’s staging for the Berliner Ensemble, finally overwhelms its source. And to what end? The strongest argument this BAM Next Wave Festival offering makes is for extending copyright protections to at least 405 years.



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