By SPENCER ABROHMS
For The News-Letter
A cast consisting of entertainment industry veterans as well as prominent local performers read from William Goldman’s classic novel The Princess Bride live on Saturday, Nov. 14.
Hosted by the Johns Hopkins Film Society, this reinterpretation brought together eager film enthusiasts as well as new viewers who wanted some unconventional entertainment.
The 1987 film adaptation, written by Goldman and directed by Rob Reiner, combines fantasy, comedy, romance and adventure genres. The film, like the book, takes on a framed narrative format of a grandfather telling his sick grandson a fantastical tale.
In this tale, viewers watch a farm boy’s epic quest to rescue the beautiful Princess Buttercup from an insidious kidnapping scheme.
The film is touching, action-packed, surprising and incredibly funny. Although it only achieved modest success at the box office, the film became a cult classic and has been regarded as one of the greatest comedies and love stories. The Writers Guild of America’s lists it as one of the greatest screenplays of all time.
One of the film’s greatest assets is its exceptionally humorous and endlessly quotable screenplay. The screenplay’s writing style and the exceptional voice cast made the Film Society’s rendering a unique and entertaining experience.
John Astin, best known for his role as Gomez Addams on the 1964 TV series “The Addams Family,” played the Grandfather; independent filmmaker Matthew Porterfield played Westley; and electronic musician Dan Deacon played Vizzini, one of the kidnappers.
Other local performers like Lexie Mountain, DDm, Jimmy Joe Roche, Spank Rock, Rahne Alexander, Ben Johnson and Tommy Waldo also brought the film’s iconic characters to life.
A member of the Film Society read the action descriptions, which are unique in this screenplay because they are written in the same humorous tone as the film’s dialogue. Many of these written actions contain jokes that film audiences would otherwise never get to hear.
The action sequences in the screenplay also include insight into the minds of the characters and descriptions that leave the actual scene up to the interpretation of the reader or cinematographer. In one example, a fight is described without much detail.
“And what we are starting now is one of the two greatest sword fights in modern movies (the other one happens later on) and right from the beginning it looks different,” the script reads.
This untraditional screenplay style worked well for a script reading because it made the screenplay function almost like a book, allowing each audience member to imagine the scene for themselves.
The performance itself took place on stage at local concert venue Space 2640. The cast all sat at a table like a professional table read. Some of the cast members were in little costumes like crowns and hats while others performed costume changes throughout the night.
A few audience members watched the performance from chairs but most of the audience members lounged on the floor, many with pillows, blankets and hot chocolate to make for a comfortable and intimate show.
Surprisingly, this reading was the very first time the cast had read the entire script together, although the lack of rehearsal did not show. It was very interesting to see how talented the cast was. They read the script so organically that it appeared they had been rehearsing for months.
While most of the performance was just a screen reading, there were props and action. Like their counterparts Buttercup and Westley, Mountain and Porterfield embraced in a passionate kiss.
Also, while still trying to read their scripts, Porterfield and Roche staged a very humorous sword fight, rapidly clashing their words together. Finally, a giant rat was brought on stage for the scene in which Buttercup and Westley journey through the fire swamp.
The audience seemed to love the reading and made their approval known through constant cheers and uproarious laughter. Overall it was an excellent performance that reimagined a classic story.