By Larry Murray
Shakespeare & Company in Lenox announced its upcoming season at a celebratory gathering of members of the company, its board and select members of the press. With a dozen productions and special events planned over the summer, a challenging handful of contemporary plays will join proven Shakespeare works on the company’s three stages. As PR spokesman Elizabeth Aspenlieder remarked: “This season includes both the shortest of Shakespeare’s plays, Comedy of Errors, and the longest, Hamlet, plus one that’s in-between.”
Of the new works, the regional premiere of Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti caused considerable buzz, and the world premiere of Jane Anderson’s Mother of the Maid, starring Tina Packer was greeted with applause. In addition, the summer season includes The Unexpected Man by Yasmina Reza, and opens with the provocative new play by Sarah Treem, The How and the Why.
Diversity seems to be one key to the season, with four plays by women playwrights, including Lolita Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet. She has made her mark on stage and screen as both actor and writer and has created this astonishing play, to be seen for the first time in New England. Red Velvet is about Ira Aldridge, an African-American actor at the centre of controversy in 1833 when he takes over from Edmund Kean in Othello at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden, It premiered in 2012 at the Tricycle Theatre in London, and in the this US debut will stars one of the company’s most renowned members, John Douglas Thompson.