When Shakespeare Gets Kinky

With the incessant hulu ads for The Turning – having me turning off the volume every commercial break – it seemed like a good time to share this story:

Every once in a while, I like to take a stab at being cultured. I’m way better at just being wry or, you know, sarcastic, but I do see the value in cultural outings. I took the Madness to the symphony once…and by “symphony” I mean the Seattle Men’s Choir. It was in a symphony hall, y’all. Oh, and we’ve been to the nutcracker enough times for me to be completely done with Marie and her creepy Godpapa.

Still, I take a stab at it every now and again so I can feel like a good parent. My mom was the same way. We’d hit up the occasional museum as a sort of penance for too many days spent watching the Price is Right and racing frogs in the backyard. Much more rarely…so rarely I only remember one incident outside of the nutcracker pilgrimage…we would go to the theater. It’s an incident worth sharing.

“Guess what! I got us tickets to a Shakespeare play!” Mother announced, very pleased.

“Cool, which one?”

“Taming of the Shrew.”

“Oh thank God, a comedy,” I said, showing off my big, AP English brain.

Two weeks later, we met up with my mom’s BFF, (code-name “Clipboard of Fun”) the actual originator of the tickets. We put on our fancy goin’ to the theater clothes and went to a weird part of town and a tiny little theater, for an extremely off Broadway production of the Taming of the Shrew.

Except it wasn’t.

“They spelled it wrong,” I said, looking at the playbill.

Except they didn’t. In gothic lettering, it said “Turn of the Screw” right on the cover.

From a review of a similar sounding production: “At the same time, there are strong suggestions the whole thing is the warped fantasy of a sexually hungry manic-depressive: Anna Madeley’s governess accepts the mild advances of her employer, willingly allows the boy Miles to fondle her left breast and even, at one point, touches herself up in front of a mirror while clutching a pornographic letter.” Rebecca Lenkiewicz

So began a dark, foggy play of interminable length about…I’m not sure. There was a ghost, I think. And incest? There was definitely some inappropriate sex happening both onstage and in the audience, strangely enough. In the row behind us, half-hidden in a dark corner, a couple was making out with unsubtle ferver. In the row ahead of us, slumped against his date, an older man was audibly snoring. On the stage itself, a display of gothic, overdramatic bemoaning of one thing or another, incessantly. With a fog machine.

I leaned into mom. “I don’t think this is Shakespeare.”

That’s when mom and I got the giggles. I don’t know which one of us starting giggling first, but I’m gonna blame mom. Her friend’s furious attempts to shush the giggling just made it worse. Between the whirr of the fog machine, the rhythmic snoring in front of us, the wet lip smacking behind us, it was too much to take.

“You are SHAKING the entire ROW!” Mom’s friend hissed.

I felt terrible. It was a small theater and I was sure the actors would eventually see us trying to smother our giggles with our hands, sides cramping, trying not to look at each other.

At intermission, the lights came up and the snoring gentleman was startled awake. Mom and I covered our hysteria with wild clapping. The tears streaming down our faces were real, if not appropriate.

“Oh my God, can we just leave now?” I asked.

Mom’s friend grimaced. “You two are impossible. I can’t take you anywhere.”

We left. I should probably read that book sometime, as I still have no idea how the story ends. Overall, not the Bard’s best work.

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