As part of a recent push to become the first American playhouse to complete the entire 39-play cannon of William Shakespeare, The Shakespeare Tavern have sought to complete the final two plays, both rare in nature. One of these plays, Two Noble Kinsmen, is one of the Bard’s most diverse romances, containing everything from singing, dancing, combat and even a monkey.
The play centers around two cousins, Arcite and Palamon, who end up in prison after fighting a war against Thesus, Duke of Athens. While in jail, the two men remain in good spirits until they see Thesus’s sister-in-law, Emilia, outside the prison yard and fall in love with her simultaneously. Both brothers claim that they saw her first, and their close friendship quickly deteriorates into a fierce battle for Emilia’s affections.
This mishap leads them on a wild adventure; Arcite is released from prison but banished from the kingdom while Palamon escapes from jail and is forced to maintain secrecy while roaming the kingdom. While they are both hiding from officials, they encounter one another in the forest. Arcite brings Palamon fresh food and clothing but is greeted with hostility and anger by his brother, upset that he betrayed him by claiming his love for Emilia.
The remainder of the play unfolds as the two men sacrifice their friendship, and nearly their lives, to win the affections of the girl. From this develops a number of subplots which are unified throughout the second act, culminating in an exciting climax, in which Emilia is forced to choose between her two suitors.
Even if you are not well versed in Shakespeare, the acting troupe at the Shakespeare Tavern makes it easy to understand as well as fun to watch. They drizzle the performance with asides to the audience, some modern day humor and facial expressions that will keep you laughing until the end, all the while keeping with the tradition of the original intent of the work.
The actors do a fantastic job of bringing Shakespeare to life for the viewer, including a fair amount of audience interaction, which provides for added humor and impulsiveness during the play. The intimate atmosphere of the faux Globe Theater stage provides for a great environment in which the actors can engage the audience. Taking a seat in the front row puts you in what they call the “red-zone” in which an actor might take a drink of your wine, or try to swoon your date. In addition to the outstanding acting, the Tavern presents its theater with the added bonus of beginning the evening with a dinner of authentic British tavern food. The Shepard’s pie, apple & cheddar baguette and “Rainy day” tomato soup are especially good. The kitchen opens one and a half hours before the show starts, and closes 10 minutes beforehand. The kitchen also reopens during the intermission to serve up a delicious hot apple crisp with ice cream, perfect for sharing with that special someone.
The Shakespeare Tavern also does a great job of contributing to the community, both on and off the stage. The Tavern works closely with a number of schools in Atlanta and offers performances in the mornings for students to come see. Going to see a play at the Tavern is additionally a good way to support the art scene in Atlanta, and with tickets in the balcony section, it costs little more than a night at the movie theater.