Fringe By Numbers: Day Six, "Beowulf or Gilgamesh, You Decide"
Day Six: 5:30 p.m. Time Slot
Show: Beowulf or Gilgamesh, You Decide
Company: Chopping Block Theater & Charlie Bethel
Venue: U of M Rarig Center Arena
Die Roll: 11
I wanted Gilgamesh!!!!! Now that I've got that out of the way, let me tell you about Charlie Bethel's Beowulf. Or even better, let's just start with talking about Charlie Bethel. I finally met Charlie a couple of years ago because he was cast in a play that I wrote for Thirst Theater. Charlie is one of this community's most under-valued assets. Sure, he's got a small cult following due to the two shows that make up the repertoire of this production, but he's a damn fine actor and ought to be a regular on some of the bigger stages in town.
Even though I've known him for a couple of years, I've never seen Charlie do either of these shows. I was quite excited to get a chance. On the walk from the ramp to the Rarig, it was suggested to me that I could roll my die in order to determine what story I wanted to hear. I went back to my car, grabbed my die, and decided that odds would mean Beowulf and evens would be Gilgamesh. I rolled a "2". I figured there would be a show of hands or something to set us off down the path of one story or the other. No. The moment Bethel walked into the theatre, people were forcefully shouting the names of the shows they would prefer. I declared my support for Gilgamesh, but I was out shouted by almost everyone in the audience. Granted, it was hard to commit passionately to either show when it was decided arbitrarily, and I'd have been happy with either one.
And I was happy with Beowulf. Charlie tells his tale in what I can only assume it would have been like to witness the storytellers, bards, and minstrels of yore. Bethel isn't of the mold of modern storytellers that slowly and methodically wax on about their own feelings. No. Charlie tells an epic tale in a passionate, rapid-fire manner. He moves about the whole stage as if it were his domain and created a tale, its characters, and its action before us all.
The story of Beowulf (which I will sheepishly admit I've still never read) was drastically different from that represented in the recent film. It was not the story of betrayal and sex with demons that encouraged men to buy tickets to see a computer generated version of Angelina Jolie. No. Bethel's rendition was a hero's tale. A tale of courage, adventure, treasure and great deeds. It is easy to see how a tale told in this way could encourage others to attempt great deeds as well. It is a tale such as this that brings out the inner gamer in me. Now I hunger for a D&D campaign in which to save a town from its infestation of trolls and that nasty bugbear that lives in the cave just outside town.
Watching Charlie spin the tale of Beowulf and his defeat of three terrible monsters, I couldn't help but think of how I might have tried to tell this story as a one-man show. There is no way I can think of that would be better than how Bethel did it. It is a terrific show. One that has to be seen to be truly appreciated. I am somewhat ashamed that it took me so many years to see what he had to offer in the shows that have given him his devout following.
Rating: d20 = One Of The Best
Ten Word Summary: Something's wreaking havoc in Denmark. Bethel's Beowulf saves the day!
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