“What Fools These Mortals Be” by the Interact Center

Putting Shakespeare in the conceptual blender

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What Fools These Mortals Be

Photo by Thomas Sandelands


My first experience with an Interact Center show was more than a decade ago, a variety revue with songs, comedy, and short scenes performed by performers with disabilities. And while it’s not quite accurate to say that the show was about disability, it had the profound effect of embracing disability with humor and realism. It was one of the warmest, funniest, and most entertaining shows I’d ever seen. 

For its latest show, What Fools These Mortals Be, the Center returns to a conceptual theme it’s explored in previous years: the role of the Fool in history and art, exemplified in this case by a troupe of courtly jesters who find themselves on the wrong side of Queen Elizabeth I in 1589. They’re wrongly accused of malevolent intent and hit the road in search of the New World along with an up-and-coming playwright named William Shakespeare. 

Storyteller and playwright Kevin Kling performs in the show and collaborated on its creation with composer and theater artist Aaron Gabriel. The text is a mash-up of lines from every Shakespeare play, and its locations are condensed from the same sources (a scene in Italy, for instance, is a purée of moments from The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merchant of Venice, and Othello done as a fight scene).  

“The show is really fast-paced,” Gabriel says. “They’re on the lam and they have to keep going before anyone catches up with them.”

Interact is talking about the show as a collision between the intricate earthiness of the Italian filmmaker Fellini with Shakespeare—who could be broadly silly himself when the mood was right. Gabriel mentions how this immersion in Shakespeare—covering all his plays in an hour and fifteen minutes—offers up rich and unexpected juxtapositions. But he also has his eye on the comedic prize.

“They keep trying to escape and go the wrong way every time,” he says. “It’s pretty ridiculous.”

What Fools These Mortals Be
at the Lab Theater
11.18—12.17
interactcenter.com

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