William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh by Ian Doescher

CHORUS

Luke Skywalker hath sadly disappear’d,
And in his absence come most wicked foes.
The cruel First Order hath made all afeard —
Like phoenix from the Empire’s ash it grows.
They shall not rest till Skywalker is dead,
Yet others seek to rescue him from harm.
By Leia — General Organa — led,
Th’Republic doth a brave Resistance arm.
Her brother she doth earnestly pursue,
Thus may he help bring peace to restoration.
She sends a daring pilot to Jakku,
Where one old friend perchance knows Luke’s location.
In time so long ago begins our play,
In yearning galaxy far, far away.
/Exit.

I’ve been a fan of this series since the first one dropped, purchasing both the hardcover “scripts” and, in the case of the original trilogy, the full cast audio performances.  You see, as with the Bard’s work, these plays are meant to be performed, and in the tradition of the best Star Wars audiobooks, the production goes all out with sound effects, music (both original John Williams film music and Elizabethan stage music!), and in this case, a theater hawker to announce the play.  When The Force Doth Awakens was first announced, I did a little happy dance when I discovered there’d be an audio to accompany the text.  Sadly, Doescher has since confirmed he’ll only be doing the numbered saga films, not the anthologies.  On one hand I get it: it takes time to do these properly, and one film a year is a bit too fast for something like this.  On the other hand, I really want Rogue One to be given the Shakespearean treatment.  Likewise, I really wish they’d go back and do the prequels in audio format.  For some reason, Disney seems to think they won’t sell.  I’ll take what I can get.

As with the previous six, The Force Doth Awakens is a completely immersive, yet delightfully meta experience.  The more you know about the Bard, and the better you know the film, the more impressive this little mash-up becomes.  This from someone who despises mash-ups and thinks them to be the cheapest of all possible gimmicks short of a reboot.  So what I’m saying here is this defies all conventional wisdom and offers up true greatness.  The nature of Star Wars is that it plays perfectly into the literary conventions and dramatic swells of Shakespearean subject matter.  The question is, does it live up to the promise of the original film?  Actually, no, that’s not the question, because this play is better.  It’s a wonder what elevated Shakespearean soliloquy can do for clunky, pulp level film dialogue.  In fact, the nature of the beast is that this version makes more sense than the original film script.  I can’t make that up.  As with the previous entries in this series, characters that have no dialogue (such as Chewbacca) get to speak, and the oh the snarky goodness that’s unveiled!  And for those who appreciate this sort of thing, the Easter eggs within are not only frequent, they are well placed and well timed, elevating them above the common level of “it’s in there merely because the author could do it.”

All in all, this entry maintains the incredibly high level of quality that’s been demonstrated since the beginning.  It is an absolute joy to experience this in both written and performed versions.  Not only is this epic level parody done right, at multiple levels, it is excellent literary content on its own terms.

Seven swings, seven hits.  Ian Doescher has done it again, and once again the Bard would be proud.  I know I am.

5 stars

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