Pick of the Day: Terminator the Second at Nashville School of the Arts

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Jamie Bradley as John Connor and Jasson Cring as the Terminator
  • Jamie Bradley as John Connor and Jasson Cring as the Terminator
Terminator the Second
Where: Nashville School of the Arts, 1200 Foster Ave.
When: Friday-Monday at 8 p.m.

Editor's note: Sean's pick for Terminator the Second appears in this week's Scene. Jim Ridley also wrote a preview of it for our Fall Guide issue. You can read that after the jump.

Whether ’tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of Christian Bale’s overacting or to spend yet another weekend consuming the extra-large bag of Cheetos while watching the entire run of The Sarah Connor Chronicles for the seventh time … we can’t really decide. It could go either way, frankly — we’ve been fostering an unhealthy addiction to James Cameron’s Oedipal android saga far too long to make an objective decision. Hell, in our younger years we were such Edward Furlong fans that we even went to see Brainscan, possibly the worst of all evil video game movies (which might just be the worst of all bad movie genres). Fortunately, this weekend our decision is made for us — Husky Jackal Theater has rescripted the liquid-metal-est movie ever using nothing but dialogue from William Shakespeare. That’s right: It’s a man-machine hybrid, complete with funny accents. Hope they’ve got Cheetos at the concession stand.

From Jim's Fall Guide preview:

A time traveler has come to alter the present, change the past and perhaps create an alternate future — and his name is William Shakespeare. In this scenario, the Bard comes to present-day Nashville, armed only with the First Folio and a seemingly unlimited arsenal of epigrams, aphorisms, couplets and (when big guns are needed) maybe a soliloquy or two. With these ageless weapons, he intends to protect modern audiences from one of the 20th century's most odious threats: James Cameron's dialogue.

Cameron's storytelling, though — that's a different matter. When longtime friends Marshall Weber and Cody De Vos (who worked together on the award-winning indie feature Make-out with Violence) started comparing the director's 1990 blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgment Day to The Riverside Shakespeare, they were startled to find many of the same elements. Not just broad narrative strokes such as parental bonds and bold hero-villain conflicts, but lines that actually sound similar themes of imminent cataclysm, deceitful appearances and concern about the future. By the time they reached a declaration by Hamlet uncannily suited to Robert Patrick's molten-metal T-1000 — "Oh, that this too, too solid flesh should melt" — a seed had taken root in their minds.

For Terminator the Second, the first production of their Husky Jackal theater company, the authors began combing through Shakespeare's plays. Specifically, they sought dialogue and characters that would hew to the plot of Cameron's sci-fi extravaganza.

"It was easy to find the parallels," says Weber, who's known De Vos ever since they both appeared in a Hendersonville High production of James and the Giant Peach. (De Vos played an earthworm; Weber was a centipede who "looked like a giant piece of poop with a face hole.") Nine months later, they emerged with a script that translates Cameron's dystopian thrill ride into a patchwork quilt of quotations from Macbeth, Richard III, Titus Andronicus and other canonical texts. Only proper nouns, pronouns and corresponding verb tenses were changed, De Vos says.

It's a gimmick that could easily exhaust its novelty. But judging by a recent run-through at an equally unorthodox rehearsal space — a sweltering van-repair shop in a grimy Sixth Avenue industrial district not unlike the world after SkyNet— Husky Jackal's cast is treating the script with equal reverence for Cameron's film and Shakespeare's plays. NYU-trained stage actress Kahle Reardon may have been speaking a passage Frankensteined from Hamlet's "There are more things in heaven and earth than dreamt of in your philosophy" and Richard III's "I prophesy the fearfull'st time to thee." But as she snarled the words, they morphed like the T-1000 into Sarah Connor's terrifying vision of the future.

"We're really being sincere," says Jamie Bradley, the 26-year-old actress assigned the role of Cameron's 12-year-old savior John Connor. Other cast members include Jasson Cring as the Terminator, Weber as T-1000, Kyle Williams, John Silvestro, Wes Lewis, Sarah Van Arsdal, Diana Holland, Todd Rowan and Alex Ezell. How on earth will they pull off the movie's show-stopping effects sequences — the shape-shifting, the reservoir chase, the chopper crash? Hell, fans will even want to know whether Reardon has mastered Linda Hamilton's ability to cock a pump-action shotgun one-handed.

All will be answered Oct. 14-17 when Terminator the Second opens at Nashville School of the Arts, boosted by a Kickstarter campaign that went viral and netted the production significantly more than the $3,000 it sought. Sitting in the gravel lot behind their rehearsal space, flanked by rusted Volvos, Weber and De Vos now say they're glad they didn't pursue their first fundraising idea: manning a chili food truck in fake mustachios. Didn't some guy once write something about how the play's the thing? —Jim Ridley

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