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'10 X 10' is not your grandma's Shakespeare

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"10 X 10"

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Those who have avoided Shakespeare’s plays, perhaps due to past negative experiences, might reconsider and even embrace his work once they've seen “10 x 10” presented by EclecticPond Theatre Company at the Irvington Lodge, located in the fast transforming eastside Indy neighborhood after which it is named. What they'll experience is a farcical, madcap romp of a presentation of the Bard’s top ten plays — each lasting approximately 10 minutes and filled with pop references and silly sight gags — that is anything but dull. The show which opened Saturday continues Jan.3 - 5.

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Though purists might take issue with “10 x 10” due to the irreverence attached to this parodist treatment of Shakespeare’s work — it’s that very feature that makes the production (brought back by popular demand) accessible to audiences its producers hope to reach.

Co-founded by artistic director Thomas Cardwell (on Examiner.com’s Top ten compelling performing arts people of 2013 list) and wife and managing director Catherine Cardwell, part of EclecticPond’s mission is to produce “inventive and exciting adaptations of Shakespeare and other playwrights, enabling the works to become relevant and appealing to a new generation of audiences.”

And inventive and exciting “10 X 10” certainly was. Directed by Thomas Cardwell, who also co-wrote it with Jeremy Grimmer, it featured a cast of 34 actors, consisting of both professional and amateur actors, with most switching roles.

The ten plays skewered were: “Othello,” “Twelfth Night,” “Julius Caesar,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Macbeth,” “Henry V,” “Richard III,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo & Juliet” and “Hamlet.”

Most of the sketches were cleverly written, with some more successful than others, such as "Richard III," which simply fell flat. The most hilarious and therefore, memorable were “Julius Caesar,” “Macbeth” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Part of the attraction in regard to those selections had to do with certain actors who stood out in performances that were above average amongst a cast whose talent level ranged from high caliber to merely adequate.

In addition to the versatile Thomas Cardwell, who served as the show’s emcee and who also played Duke Orsino in “Twelfth Night” and Oberon in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream, other standouts were Mike Hosp as Anthony in “Julius Caesar” and Bottom in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; Wacky Bill Wilkison as Caesar in “Julius Caesar” and as Macbeth (in which Wilkinson's over-the-top Scottish accent alone is worth the price of ticket) in “Macbeth”; Elysia Rohn, Casey O’Leary and Jenni White as the witches in “Macbeth”; Matt Anderson as Quince (and Thisby) in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and as Hamlet in “Hamlet”; Frankie Boda as Tybalt/Lady Capulet in “Romeo & Juliet”; and Paul Hansen as Claudius/Ghost in “Hamlet.”

Though the fast-paced “10 X 10” had some rough spots, the Cardwells deserve major props for a gargantuan, ambitious job well done. Not only have they enlivened the local theater scene with work that is entertaining and refreshing, they are presenting it in a neighborhood predicted by some to become the next big thing in Indy and because of that, local audiences and Irvington stand to benefit immeasurably.

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