- “He's a man for his time and place.” Ray Bullock will read from Adam Bertocci's reworked Shakespearian folio based on the Coen brothers' cult film classic, “The Big Lebowski.”
It was all supposed to be a joke.
In 2009 a bored screenwriter named Adam Bertocci took a few of his favorite lines from the Coen Brothers' cult classic “The Big Lebowski,” and transformed them into Elizabethan English. He posted these adapted phrases on his Facebook page, along with the announcement that he was adapting the screenplay into Shakespearian tongue.
While he initially had no intention to complete the project, Bertocci became obsessed with the idea. Last January he posted the entire script of “Two Gentlemen of Lebowski” on his blog. By March it had opened off-Broadway, and sold out all 14 shows.
Ray Bullock, a local stand-up comedian and actor, will direct a staged reading of the show next week at Bottom's Up Pizza with his comedy group, Club 9:55. A champion of unlikely matchings, Bullock likes his Lebowski with a side of Elizabethan English, his theater space inside a popular pizza parlor, and his stand-up comedians mixed in with Shakespearean actors.
“I'm a firm believer that if Shakespeare were alive today he'd be writing for a sitcom,” Bullock says. “[Shakespeare's plays] all have fart and penis jokes, and if there's something comics know about, it's fart and penis jokes.”
Playing the Big Lebowski is Alan Sader, the actor perhaps best known for being the television spokesman for ChildFund International. Local stand-up Andrew Pauley will play His Dudeness, or as he's named in this production, the Knave.
Pauley says the show is “the same kind of absurdist mystery story, but in Elizabethan English,” and has a few differences from the original to keep members of the Church of Latter-Day Dude interested. “Ray's come up with some pretty cool ideas for how to do the dream sequences,” Pauley says.
Because of the precarious legal status of a show based on a Hollywood movie, no production is allowed to profit. It will be performed free, though the 9:55 Club will collect donations to benefit multiple-sclerosis research. In December the group held a stand-up night at Bottom's Up that raised more than $500 to benefit MS research through stand-up comedy, but Bullock hopes to top that. Bottom's Up also has agreed to donate a portion of sales to charity.
After hearing the premise, “It sounded like a lot of fun,” Bottom's Up General Manager Charlie Lichter says. “We love being able to provide something a little different down here.”
While some people might scoff at the idea of stand-up comics performing Shakespeare, Bullock insists that comedians are just what the Bard would have wanted.
“To my knowledge this is the first production with half Shakespearian actors and half stand-up comics,” Bullock says, laughing. “It'll probably be spectacular or a train wreck.”
Or, to paraphrase the Stranger with the Sarsaparilla himself, sometimes you eat the Bard and sometimes he eats you.
The 9:55 Club's reading of “Two Gentlemen of Lebowski” will take place Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. at Bottom's Up, 1700 Dock St. The event is free but charitable donations will be accepted. Call 878-0918 for information.