For an article in this Sunday’s paper, The Washington Post sent its former arts editor John Pancake in search of some very bad Shakespeare—-specifically, The Two Noble Kinsmen, the last play Shakespeare wrote (well, co-wrote) and not a great one. In the article, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Michael Kahn calls it “a deeply flawed play.” Pancake writes:
Centuries have gone by without a production. It’s the only one of Shakespeare’s 37 surviving plays that has never been filmed. The top theater critics at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have never seen it. None of the three major Shakespeare theaters in Washington has ever staged it.
Until this month, “The Two Noble Kinsmen” seemed likely to thwart my quest to see all of Shakespeare’s plays before I die. Not easily deterred, I’d occasionally punch the title into Google to see whether, by some miracle, a production was nearby. Then I got a hit: a bare-bones production at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival at DeSales University, in Center Valley, Pa., 50 miles north of Philadelphia.
All of that is true. And Pancake, as his tagline notes, spent the last few years living abroad and now resides in the Shenandoah Valley. So it’s understandable he may have missed the production of The Two Noble Kinsmen that happened in D.C., um, a year ago.
In the Folger Theatre, no less! But not by its resident Shakespearean company. In fact, it was one of the experimental Taffety Punk Theatre Company’s “Bootleg Shakespeare” performances: The troupe only had one day to rehearse The Two Noble Kinsmen, which is probably about what the play deserves. This version had some Star Wars jokes. I rather enjoyed it.
As far as local pegs go, the Taffety production is at least as useful as the fact that Michael Kahn doesn’t like the play and hasn’t staged it. If Pancake is curious, I’m sure the Taffety Punks could assemble a remount in a few hours.