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Theater Review (LA): As U2 Like It by Shakespeare and Matt Walker at the Falcon Theatre

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The zany members of the Troubadour Theatre Company have been skewering the classics now for twelve years. The have their annual Christmas shows, JACKson Frost, It’s A Stevie Wonderful Life, A Charlie James Brown Christmas, and my favorite, Christmas Carol King. But when they are not giving us holiday cheer, the target of their mirth is often the Bard himself, William Shakespeare. This reflects the experience of the extraordinarily talented and thankfully irrepressible Matt Walker, who leads these efforts: he has trained with Second City, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Barnum and Bailey Clown College, Bill Irwin, and – wait for it – The Royal Shakespeare Company. Combine this with his love of rock and roll and r&b and you get OthE.L.O, Much Adoobie Brothers About Nothing, and Hamlet, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince of Denmark – and now the latest: As U2Like It.

What’s remarkable about the Troubadour's work is that it shows a real respect for Shakespeare while at the same time spoofing the texts. I think Shakespeare might have appreciated these improvisations on his works. As U2 Like It may be the best of the lot. Perhaps this is because the troupe is getting better at Shakespeare, or because the singing and gymnastics are getting more accomplished. It’s virtually impossible to describe the insane combinations that go on, but imagine Charles the wrestler on stilts, Celia as a Latina fireball, Jacques as a white-faced clown, and you can get an idea what is going on here.

I really love all the “Troubies” as they are called, even the newcomers who go about their tasks with great relish. In As U2 Like It there are some standouts. The outrageously funny Rick Batalla plays Oliver. The night I saw the show, he and Matt Walker did a five-minute improv that was thrilling in its comic imagination.

Brenna Pine plays a straightforward Rosaline (someone has to be sane here). Orlando is played by the hunky Matt Merchant, who is a little weak on the Shakespeare but really comes to life when he is singing. Silvius and Phoebe are played, and I do mean played, by Audrey Siegal and Matthew Morgan respectively.

The Latina Celia is played by a sexy Katie Nunez. Beth Kennedy is a surly Jacques, and her rendition of “All The World’s A Stage,” complete with mime, is perfection. Then there is always Matt Walker himself, who exudes such spirit and love for his troupe. Matt plays – who else? – the clown Touchstone, and sings up a storm.

The band is made up of regulars Eric Heinly, Thomas Dryaton, Mitchell Sigman, and Pocket Honore. Their sound is great and they even join in on the fun. As U2 Like It plays at the Falcon Theatre where it alternates with another Troubadour show, Alice in One-Hit Wonderland II, until October 12th.

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