The Carillon, Vol. 52, Issue 16 | Feb. 4 – 10, 2010
Fans of the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski are known to recite quotes from the 1998 surrealistic classic. Don’t be surprised, however, if the quotes soon start coming in iambic pentameter.
Two Gentlemen of Lebowski by Adam Bertocci, a screenwriter living in New York City, is an adaptation of the film as a Shakespearean play. It was released online earlier this month and has rapidly gone viral, with productions scheduled in New York and Atlanta, and rights licensed in San Francisco and Toronto.
The film is the story of a man, Jeffrey Lebowski, known simply as the Dude, who is attacked in his home by two thugs that believe him to be a millionaire of the same name. One of the goons urinates on the Dude’s rug, which sets off a bizarre adventure involving bowling, kidnapping, pornography, and nihilism. The film has become a cult favourite and there are Lebowski Fests held in several cities every year.
In Bertocci’s play, the Dude is now the Knave, but still “a man of lazy ways, of epic sloth.” The rest of the cast is also essentially preserved, revealed through five acts and 24 scenes. Bertocci maintains the screenplay’s rampant profanity with flowery twists: “This befalleth when thou firk’st a stranger ‘twixt the buttocks, Laurence!” Sir Walter declares before attacking a car with his sword. “This be what befalleth, Laurence!”
The content of the dialogue holds up surprisingly well in Elizabethan English. Of course, it helps that many of the themes in the film – such as mistaken identity, divided households, and sexual humour – are also prominent in Shakespeare’s plays. Interestingly, bowling retains its prominence in the plot, in the form of ninepins, the ancestor of modern bowling that has been played for centuries in Europe.
The play, which can be found online at runleiarun.com/lebowski, has seen enormous success since its release on Jan. 6. Bertocci was almost immediately bombarded with production offers. Jeff Bridges and John Goodman reportedly enjoy the piece and Bertocci has signed with a literary agent. Last week, tickets for the entire New York City theatrical run, 11 performances in 11 days, sold out soon after going on sale. It seems that even more than 11 years after the film’s release, the Dude still abides.