“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is a quirky Arthurian romance penned in alliterative Middle English in the 14th-century by the anonymous Pearl Poet. Because it is one of my favorite stories, of all the Planet Connections productions I was slated to see, my hopes were highest for this adaptation of the legend, The Green Knight, written by Brian Rady and directed by Jeremy Bloom.
The legend is about a knight who–you guessed it–is entirely green: armor, horse, skin, the works. On Christmas Day, this verdant villain rides into King Arthur’s court to challenge one of his famous knights. Sir Gawain, Arthur’s nephew, steps up to the challenge and embarks on a year-long journey, whose trials are infused with dark magic and temptation, to prove his chivalry and settle the score with the Green Knight.
The Green Knight sort of begins at the top of the stairs leading to 45 Bleecker’s downstairs theater, The Green Room. The usher taking tickets at the door lapses suddenly into a brokenly scripted Arthurian diatribe before the audience is permitted to enter. When we finally make our way down the stairwell to the theater this character breaks her soliloquy to inform us that the emergency exits lie beyond the narrow stairway by which we entered the dungeon. For better or for worse, there is no getting out of this trial now.
As the audience settles into their seats, a gaggle of imbeciles dressed entirely in makeshift pink outfits is dancing off stage in the corner of the room to live drumming. Audience members are offered complimentary cups of red wine, and soon, the twirling imbeciles, take their places on stage: King Arthur, Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, Sir Gawain, Sir Gawain’s horse, and members of court–the whole pink posse is there.
The imbeciles-turned-actors, as it turns out, are fantastic. They at once mock the deliberately quirky and shoddy costumes and set design while completely enrapturing the audience in an Arthurian legend gone postmodern. They meet the challenge of an updated, edgy and highly alliterative script and spin off these ceaselessly tongue-twisting lines with ease.
As the Green Knight interrupts the yuletide feast at King Arthur’s court, the scene succeeds in being at once engaging and funny. We are rooting for this goofy Gawain, even as he rides off on his horse–piggy-backed on an actor wearing a horse head. We watch as Sir Gawain becomes deterred on his journey to challenge the Green Knight at a debaucherous castle belonging to Lord and Lady Bertilak. We watch the climactic scene, awash in green lighting, when Sir Gawain finally meets again the infamous Green Knight. And the whole deliberately overacted and under-designed production comes together with aplomb to make a must-see whirl of wild wonderment and haughty hilarity.
The Green Knight was absolutely the most entertaining, hilarious, seamless performance I’ve seen in a long time. My only criticism? Lose the preface at the precipice. We don’t need the usher’s diatribe as intro, and the language didn’t quite match the purply-pink parlance we’d be presented with during the bulk of the play; it merely felt like an unnecessary delay to seeing a play that would bring this legend to life, utterly delight us, and hardly be a dud.
Scott Morse, Thomas Crawford, Veracity Butcher, Kareem Lucas, Amanda Bloom, Holly Chou, Laura Siszkin-Fernandez, Catherine LeFrere, Joel Sinensky, Joyce Miller, Brett Aresco
~~~THE GREEN KNIGHT A Jeremy Bloom and Brian Rady production benefiting 826NYC
Written by Brian Rady
Directed by Jeremy Bloom
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission Venue: Green Room Theatre, Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street (downstairs), 45 Bleecker Street Performance dates: Sun 6/6 @ 8:30pm
Thurs 6/10 @ 4:30pm
Sun 6/13 @ 6:30pm
Sun 6/20 @ 6:30pm
Sat 6/26 @ 3pm
Tues 6/29 @ 8pm Purchase tickets here.