Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare & Company’

REVIEW: “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” @ Shakespeare & Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 25th, 2014
(from left): Angel Moore, Mat Leonard and Ellizabeth Aspenlieder. (photo: Kevin Sprague)

(from left): Angel Moore, Mat Leonard and Ellizabeth Aspenlieder. (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: I am deeply saddened, in the most appropriately Russian manner, to realize that Christopher Durang writes Chekhovian drama almost better than Anton Chekhov. Allow me a moment of deep reflection on the meaning of this revelation and its impact on my understanding of the cosmos and my pointless existence as an infinitesimal speck of useless matter within its vastness.

(Pause…)

Larry Murray: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike – currently on view at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox through September 14 – could have easily been a parody of Chekhov’s classic plays but instead it is a valentine, a love letter of a play by Durang. The result is a comedy with deep life lessons, as its characters relearn what it means to be a family.

Gail: While you don’t have to know Chekhov’s plays to thoroughly enjoy this one, the more you know about dramatic literature, the more fun you’ll have. And while Chekhov is definitely an acquired taste, this will tickle the fancies of Chekhov lovers and haters in equal measure because Durang understands both what is wonderful and what is thoroughly annoying about the works of the Master.

Here Durang uses character names from Chekhov’s plays – Vanya and Sonia from Uncle Vanya, Masha from Three Sisters and The Seagull, Nina from The Seagull – and throws in endless allusions to his works throughout. Here Vanya (Jim Frangione), Sonia (Tod Randolph) and Masha (Elizabeth Aspenlieder) are siblings – after a fashion, Sonia is adopted – whose professorial parents named them after Chekhov’s characters. Masha, a five-times-divorced B-list film actress, owns the family home in Buck’s County, Pennsylvania, (just down the road from the home Dorothy Parker owned in the mid-20th century), where Vanya and Sonia, both unmarried, continue to live after caring for their parents through the ends of their lives. Nina (Olivia Saccomanno) just happens to be the name of a young woman visiting next door, and Spike (Mat Leonard) is Masha’s studly young lover. Like Madame Arkadina in The Seagull, Masha is an actress sliding precipitously over the hill, who is simultaneously jealous of and inspired by Nina’s luminous youthful beauty and incipient passion for acting.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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THEATER: “Henry IV, Parts I & II” (Condensed) @ Shakespeare & Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, August 14th, 2014
The cast of Henry IV, Parts I and II (photo:  Kevin Sprague)

The cast of Henry IV, Parts I and II (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns

Shakespeare’s two history plays purporting to be about King Henry IV of England (1367-1413 CE) are actually about the coming of age of his son, the future King Henry V (1386-1422 CE). They form the center of the Bard’s tetralogy which begins with Richard II and ends with Henry V, although some will argue that Henry VI, Parts I, II and III are also a part of what becomes then a seven-play cycle. All of this was quite recent history for Shakespeare (1564-1616 CE) and these plays were not only very popular entertainment, but also formed the Tudor equivalent of the required high school course in American History we are familiar with today. At a time when most people were illiterate and few had any formal schooling, they could learn the royally sanctioned history of their land at the theater while laughing at Sir John Falstaff and his merry band of thieves and whores.

Performed in their entirety, Henry IV, Part I and Henry IV, Part II occupy the stage for a good seven hours. Hard to perform apart contextually, they are impossibly expensive and time consuming for a modern company to perform together. Starting off last year with a production of Richard II, Shakespeare & Company wanted to continue on with the history plays, and so commissioned actor/director Jonathan Epstein to condense Henry IV into one play. The resulting work runs a solid three hours, and when you add in the much-needed 20-minute intermission you walk out of the theater about three and a half hours after you entered. Thankfully the evening performances start at 7:30, not 8pm.

Epstein has cut much of the history in favor of the excellent comedy in the plays, but sadly that renders the politics and battles that remain even harder for the average audience member to understand. Adding to that muddle, just about every significant political player is named Henry (and sometimes called Harry or Hal), which is neither Epstein nor Shakespeare’s fault, that’s just history. For the sake of clarity in this review we will refer to them as Henry IV, Prince Hal (the future King Henry V), Hotspur (Henry Percy), and Percy (Hotspur’s father, the Earl of Northumberland).

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Jonathan Epstein Adapts, Directs and Stars in Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” Thru Aug. 31 [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, August 7th, 2014
In rehearsal: Henry Clarke (l) and Jonathan Epstein (phot: Elizabeth Aspenlieder)

In rehearsal: Henry Clarke (l) and Jonathan Epstein (photo: Elizabeth Aspenlieder)

A sweeping spectacle of bawdy buffoonery and bloody rebellion, director Jonathan Epstein’s razor sharp and condensed adaptation of Henry IV delivers both parts in one dynamic evening of theatre. Performances run in Shakespeare & Co.’s Tina Packer Playhouse through August 31. Press opening is Friday (August 8) at 7pm.

Shakespeare’s take on honor, war, sex and violence has never been more acute than in this riotous comedy that inter-mingles the young-rascal-that-would-be-king, Prince Hal, with the psychological underpinnings of father/son relationships. Epstein sets Shakespeare’s wildest history tale between a bustling 15th century Eastcheap and a more contemporary London, where both settings blend together as we follow this stirring history of succession to the throne. Meet the notorious Prince Hal, heir apparent, who rebels against his father, forsakes the court and engages in petty crime with that huge ‘sweet creature of bombast,’ the unruly knight Falstaff. When the Prince’s nemesis, Hotspur, and the northern lords rebel, will Hal stay and continue carousing with his surrogate ‘father’ Falstaff or heed the call of duty from the ailing King Henry? An exhilarating and potent journey through time and history, Henry IV offers many of the most memorable characters and lines in Shakespeare’s canon as it continues to captivate and mesmerize audiences over four centuries later.

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A Jazzy “Midsummer Night’s Dream” Set in 1930′s New Orleans [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, July 10th, 2014
(photo by Kevin Sprague)

(photo by Kevin Sprague)

Theatre review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: A Midsummer Night’s Dream is probably Shakespeare’s best known and most performed play next to Romeo and Juliet, and while it has within it the seeds of the tragedy about the star-crossed lovers, it does not end with a double suicide, but with the joy and happiness of a group wedding. But even more uplifting is that fantasy and reality are what we see married in this Shakespeare classic.

Gail M. Burns: And it is a very special show for Shakespeare & Company because it was the first show they ever presented outdoors at The Mount in 1978. Artistic Director Tony Simotes, a founding member of the company, played Puck back then. He has directed this production, which is the Company’s eighth, its second indoors in the Packer Playhouse.

Larry: Simotes decided to set this production in 1930’s New Orleans which means it opened, not surprisingly, with some Dixieland Jazz.

Gail: We both loved the music, composed by the multi-talented Alexander Sovronsky. In addition to acting as composer, music director and sound designer for this production, he also plays an hilarious Francis Flute who in turn is cast as the leading lady in Pyramus and Thisbe.

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Tina Packer Returns with “Julius Caesar” @ Shakespeare & Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar brims with modern politics

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar brims with modern politics

Idealism, ambition, conspiracy, honor, greed, betrayal and the lust for power — echoes of our own modern politics — are all on tap in Shakespeare’s potent and bloody Julius Caesar. Last performed at Shakespeare & Company. in 1993, Founding Artistic Director Tina Packer delivers audiences her ‘bare-Bard’ production of Caesar, marking its final leg of a three city tour – Orlando, Florida; Prague in the Czech Republic; and now at home in Lenox, with Shakespeare & Company. With seven actors playing multiple roles, this poetry-filled psychological and political thriller follows the conspiracy and assassination of the omnipotent Roman leader, and the consequences that ensue from his brutal murder. Performances run in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre from Friday (June 27) through August 30.

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Rick Dildine to Head Shakespeare & Company in Lenox as Executive Director and President [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Good fortune has smiled on Shakespeare & Company as Rick Dildine joins the staff.

Good fortune has smiled on Shakespeare & Company as Rick Dildine joins the staff.

Shakespeare & Company Board Chair Sarah Hancock announced that Rick Dildine, previously of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, will become the organization’s Executive Director and President, starting early September, 2014. In this role, Mr. Dildine will be directly responsible for all of the Company’s programming and administrative activities.

Mr. Dildine comes to Shakespeare & Company after five years as Executive Director of the nationally acclaimed Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, and four years as Director of the MFA Program in Arts Management & Leadership at Webster University. He has a distinguished 15-year career in arts leadership, successfully managing several diverse organizations.

“I am honored to move into the role of Executive Director at Shakespeare & Company,” said Mr. Dildine. “It has been a long dream of mine to lead a destination theater, and to now work with one that is so well-regarded nationally for its work is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Shakespeare & Company has a 37-year history of producing exceptional theater and to be able to work alongside so many of its artists and craftsmen whose work I have admired for years is an incredible honor.”

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Review: Kristen Wold Makes a Tour-de-Force of “Shakespeare’s Will” [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, June 9th, 2014
Kristen Wold (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Kristen Wold (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theatre Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: Shakespeare’s Will has everything going for it except the truth, and the details that would inform us about the life of Shakespeare and those closest to him are essentially unknowable. While Kristen Wold, who plays Anne Hathaway, is absolutely convincing on stage, we saw what was, in essence, a gossip play.

Gail M. Burns: We should make it clear that we are discussing Anne Hathaway (1555/56– 6 August 1623) who was married to William Shakespeare, not the Academy Award-winning actress who is alive today. Like most women of her time, we know nothing about her except for what she did through the church and the legal system, and what men she “belonged to.” We know that she was baptized, married, her children were baptized and she was buried. We know who her father, brothers and husband were and what property they owned. We know that she and the children lived in Stratford, in Warwickshire, England, while her husband lived for many years in London while he worked in the theatre. At the time of their marriage, Shakespeare was 18 and Hathaway was 26 and pregnant.

Larry: As a playwright, one of the things you have going for you when you write about a dead person is the inability of the deceased to come back and challenge your assertions. Far more people claimed to have sex with James Dean and Marilyn Monroe after they died than when they were alive. And I suspect that Shakespeare was far less randy than the playwright Vern Thiessen has worked into his play, Shakespeare’s Will.

Gail: Or more so. Mores were very different back then, and it would be interesting to learn more about how married but separate couples like Hathaway and Shakespeare were expected to comport themselves.

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Final 2014 Schedule and Casting for Shakespeare & Company in Lenox [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Annie Considine, Johnny Lee Davenport and Kelly Galvin invite all to the new 2014 season at Shakespeare & Company (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Annie Considine, Johnny Lee Davenport and Kelly Galvin invite all to the new 2014 season at Shakespeare & Company (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Casting for Shakespeare & Company’s upcoming Summer Performance Season was finalized last week which includes a roster of audience favorites, critics’ top picks and a bevy of newcomers joining the Company’s ranks in this celebratory season in honor of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Please see play titles, casting, press openings and full schedules for each production listed below. (Note varied curtain times in this season’s schedule.)

TICKETS AND DISCOUNTS
For tickets, Gift Cards and information about the 2014 Performance Season: visit http://www.shakespeare.org, or call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353, or stop by in person at 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA. Ticket prices range from $10 to $80, with discounts from 10-50% off regular ticket prices for Groups, Students, Seniors, Teachers and the Military. Our very popular 40% Off Berkshire County Residents’ Discount will again be available. Both the Playhouse and Bernstein theatres are air-conditioned, wheelchair accessible and hearing-aid assisted. To learn more about the season, discount availability, to order tickets or request a season brochure, visit http://www.shakespeare.org. Groups: For bookings, parties, and special event rental information and details contact David Joseph, Director of Sales & Group Tours, at (413) 637-1199 ext. 132 or groupsales@shakespeare.org.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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