A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Broadway on Broad Street: "Spamalot"

Watching a play on Broadway is always an unforgettable experience. The train trip to New York is always fun for Anne Marie and I, as is the thrill of seeing a live performance by a famous actor. These are the positives. The negative part of the experience is the narrow 19th century seats are too small for our expansive 21st century butts, and the location of the seats themselves. We’re not rich folk and so the only seats that we can afford are usually above the tree line, where only mountain goats are known to exist.

With all this in mind, we waited until Monty Python’s Spamalot came closer to us. So we give up the luxury of seeing a famous actor by seeing a touring version of the play, in this case at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music. The train ride is shorter, the seats are most likely just as narrow, but the mountain goats in the upper-upper balconies are usually more agreeable in Philly.

This musical is based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which, depending on how you look at it, could be seen as a farce about historical epics, or a satire about those who make historical epics. The musical version, Spamalot, not only targets history and those that record it, but also the Broadway musical and those that produce them. The Pythons have never abided by the laws of comedy, and why should they start now!

Perhaps a short explanation of self-conscious realism is in order. All dramas --regardless if comedy, tragedy or history -- are bound by the three walls of the set. Then there is the invisible fourth wall through which the audience is invited to look through. Self-conscious realism breaks through the fourth wall, destroying the illusion of the theatre-going experience, but also creating a new dimension of interaction with the audience. On many occasions, Monty Python has not only torn down this fourth wall, but also done away with the first three walls as well.

How else do you explain this story that starts with the King of the Britons gathering brave men for his Round Table at Camelot, embarking on a quest for the Holy Grail, veering left on a quest to stage a Broadway musical, veering again for a quest to find Jews to stage the Broadway musical, then coming back to the original goal which was...okay, now even I’m lost in The Very Expensive Forest. Along the way, there are battles with taunting French people; killer rabbits; the Black Knight who doesn’t know when to say die even after losing all of his limbs; other knights with an obsession for shrubbery, and conquer the most important danger of all: loneliness. King Arthur and his knights are, in the end, triumphant over all of their adversaries.

Yes, Spamalot can be silly, but it is magnificently silly. Python fans have come to expect this over the years, and this latest incarnation doesn’t disappoint them. The only regret I have is spending a short amount of time in this farcical fantasy, just to return to the harsh outside world where the global situation is very silly indeed.

As always, keep looking on the bright side of life, and don’t be afraid of strange knights who say the word Ni! Also, don’t feed the goats in the balcony. It turns out they’re not as agreeable as I first thought.


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