Theatre Round-Up

I’ve been lucky enough to have some great theatre outings in the last few weeks, but I’ve been short on time to talk about them. I slipped off to Massachusetts to visit Shakespeare & Co and catch both The Comedy of Errors and Richard III. The former was in the Bernstein Theatre with the troupe of interns. They had a circus theme which fit the wacky mix-ups well. I always find it fascinating to see the creative ways companies adjust to small spaces and small casts. They even employed a dressmaker’s dummy for one of the characters because the actor had to play two parts in the climactic scene. Great fun.

Richard III was still in previews, so the director reminded us that things were still in flux. I had a seat up on the side hanging over the stage (yes, already a hot ticket in previews) and so I ended up having to move aside during the scene where Richard pretends to eschew the crown a few times before ‘reluctantly’ accepting it. He and his entourage leaned over the balcony to the crowd below.  They whipped up the audience response so we were all cheering for Richard, thus complicit in the events. A good technique.  John Douglas Thompson made for an energetic villain, but one of the things that really came out of this production was a clear image of the women who were ignored and pushed aside by these nakedly ambitious men. The first scene with Anne really makes or breaks the play — we have to believe that this monster can charm — and it came off beautifully. Terrific cast and much glorious mayhem.

One of the things that helps me miss London a little less is the wonderful NT Live broadcasts. This time around it was London Assurance, which I hadn’t managed to see while I was there. The broadcasts give you the feeling of being in the theatre, but also the close interaction zooming cameras allow. I am soooo grateful The Spectrum is participating in the project. The play is a HOOT. I knew nothing about Dion Boucicault, the 19th century Irish playwright, but this was a terrifically funny farce. Stars Simon Russell Beale and Fiona Shaw were just loving every minute of their over-the-top roles; the entire cast was superb, even when the part wasn’t enormous, like Nick Sampson as the gentleman’s valet Cool. And what a delight to see Richard Briers! The performance was sold out, so they broadcast the play outside the NT on the “grass” (the astroturfed area where the giant furniture usually sits in the summer time) and the cast ran out to take a bow there at the end as well. Sheer delight.

Then the other day was a quick trip up to Saratoga Springs for Shakespeare in the Park. My theatre buddy Ron and I were looking forward to Hamlet, but I was also looking forward to some barbecue at PJ’s as it had been ages since I’d had any — yum! Oh, their ribs and all the sauces. Mmmmm. And the play was much fun, too. It took me a little while to warm up to the Hamlet (who sounded more like he was a lost Belushi brother than a Dane) but most of the rest of the cast was good and there were some interesting choices in staging, like having the ghost return at the end to help Claudius meet his end. Timing was good, too; the play finished just as the mosquitoes began to make themselves known. It was a slimmed down production, but the cuts didn’t feel too drastic (unsurprisingly, no Fortinbras at the end).

I’m crazy busy with some expected and unexpected deadlines this week, but I’m already trying to figure out when I can make it back to Shakespeare & Co for The Winter’s Tale. They’re doing some Stoppard this fall, too, so hurrah.