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PREVIEW: Delight, deceit and desire at Shakespeare & Company’s 2018 season

The company is offering a 40 percent discount on tickets to full-time, year-round residents of Berkshire County.

Announcing the 2018 season at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, artistic director Allyn Burrows emphasized the unique perspective of “not objectifying our women” less as  a production theme than as a critical manifest. In what amounted to a self-proclaimed rant on the subject, he asked the critical community to never refer to any of their actresses as beautiful or glorious, or any other descriptive which–honestly–may be difficult when considering the leading ladies who will grace their stages this summer. It also makes honoring the season’s banner of “Delight, Deceit, and Desire” more than a little problematic.

Tod Randolph will play Lady Macbeth.

Opening the season with Carey Crim’s play “Morning After Grace,” directed by Regge Life, this three-character play will star the ordinary-looking Corinna May, whose voice and movement and looks have made more than one play shine beyond its actual value. It tells the story of how people meet under extraordinary circumstances and how they resolve the issues those circumstances inspire. It plays at the Elayne P. Bernstein stage from Thursday, May 24, through Sunday, July 15, for one of the longer runs of the season.

Jonathan Croy. Photo courtesy Shakespeare & Company

This summer brings three William Shakespeare shows to the company’s offerings. Beginning with “Macbeth” on Tuesday, July 3, featuring Jonathan Croy and Tod Randolph under the direction of Melia Bensusson, Burrows referred masterfully to the comic aspects of this tragedy in the canon of plays and to its relevance to our current political situation, the obsessive desire for power. The play will run for one month, through Sunday, Aug. 5, on the Tina Packer Playhouse stage. “We are going to pull the audience close in the Packer,” Burrows announced. “We want everyone to experience the intimacy of our plays.”

“Love’s Labor’s Lost,” directed by Kelly Galvin, will be the offering this summer in the Dell at the Mount–the Edith Wharton home–in Lenox. With a reduced cast of eight players still to be cast and not from the winter tour production for a change, this play will run from Tuesday, July 10, through Saturday, Aug. 18.

Jonathan Epstein. Photo courtesy Shakespeare & Company

An August Strindberg play, the first produced by this company, will move into the Bernstein Theatre in mid-July. “Creditors” is a new translation/adaptation by David Greig, directed by Nicole Ricciardi, featuring Jonathan Epstein and Kristin Wold, of the play Strindberg called his most mature work. Another three-character piece, this play will be seen from Thursday, July 19, through Sunday, Aug. 12. Strindberg famously accused Henrik Ibsen of stealing this work when Ibsen created “Hedda Gabler” a few years later. It will be interesting to see this play with that knowledge.

Thomas Brazzle. Photo courtesy Shakespeare & Company

Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” will take over the Roman Garden Theatre Thursday, Aug. 9, and run through Sunday, Sept. 2. Directed by Allyn Burrows with Nigel Gore, Ella Loudon, Thomas Brazzle and others in a cast of nine players, this most famous comedy will be transformed to the 1920s in this recently adapted space that is being transformed into a diamond-shaped arena with 288 seats–one more than last year.

The second play on the Tina Packer Playhouse stage is a two-character play, “Heisenberg” by Simon Stephens, directed by Tina Packer, featuring Tamara Hickey and Malcolm Ingram. A sort of August/October romance between an impetuous woman and a solid, solitary man, this play demands the kind of intimacy normally seen in the smaller Bernstein theatre, so Packer’s work with her two artists should be a wonderful treat for an up-close audience surrounded by an acre of space. Stephens won awards for his remarkable script for “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” and this play enjoyed a good run in New York featuring Mary-Louise Parker.

The return to a second play in the mainstage is a good one, even with such an intimate concept and limited production. It replaces last year’s singers-and-storytellers series of one-night shows and the play will run from Saturday, Aug. 11, through Sunday, Sept. 2.

Annette Miller. Photo courtesy Shakespeare & Company

Terrence McNally’s recent play “Mothers and Sons,” originally written for Tyne Daly who played it on Broadway, will feature Annette Miller and be directed by James Warwick making his Shakespeare & Company debut. This play takes on the issues of a repressed and obsessive woman seeking answers about her deceased son’s life in the quirkiest of ways. Seen last season at the Ghent Playhouse, this is one show that should be seen over and over. A four-character play and running from Thursday, Aug. 16, through Sunday, Sept. 9, this holds much promise as a stand-out in this company’s fascinating season.

Elizabeth Aspenlieder. Photo courtesy Shakespeare & Company

In the autumn, the company will present “HIR” by Taylor Mac, directed by Alice Reagan and featuring company favorites Elizabeth Aspenlieder and the newly rechristened Martin Jason Asprey. Mac, who uses “judy” as an identifier, has written a play about dysfunctional family aspects that differ greatly from anything else seen this season: Mother is a “semi-mad housewife” according to theater critic Christopher Isherwood, with two sons, one a recent Afghanistan vet and the other a transgender in transition, and a nearly catatonic husband. Considered a dark comedy, this closer for a season of widely varied offerings promises to put a final exclamation point to an intense production season. It plays from Thursday, Sept. 13, through Sunday, Oct. 7, on the Bernstein stage.

A holiday show will be announced later along with the balance of the casting for this intimate season that doesn’t quite honor the company sensibility of Shakespeare & Company, but which will at least offer some wonderful new roles for the anchors of the company. Saturday, Feb. 17, and Sunday, Feb. 18, will showcase “Lovers Spat, Part Two,” refereed by Alison Larkin, and longtime board member Michael Miller will be honored at the Saturday, June 30, gala. The company is offering a 40 percent discount on tickets to full-time, year-round residents of Berkshire County and, with these short runs, I would say don’t hesitate to take full advantage of this special offer (which excludes Saturday nights, opening nights and previews).

And don’t praise their actresses too much. You might be censured.

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