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Shakespeare & Company's Tina Packer Playhouse. Photo courtesy Shakespeare & Company

Three Shakespeare comedies highlight Shakespeare & Company’s 2019 season

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By Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 Arts & Entertainment

In a nearly 60-minute press conference announcement, Shakespeare and Company artistic director Allyn Burrows presented his vision for the 2019 season Jan. 29 in the lobby of the Tina Packer Playhouse on the Company’s Lenox campus.

Shakespeare & Company artistic director Allyn Burrows. Photo courtesy Shakespeare & Company

“The strings of the heart” is Burrows’ concept theme for the summer and he has chosen a quartet of very contemporary plays to flesh out the idea. Opening the season is “The Waverly Gallery” by Kenneth Lonergan featuring Elizabeth Aspenlieder and Annette Miller, Berkshire Theatre Critics Association winner of the Outstanding Female Actor award in 2018. The play, about a brilliant woman whose mental facilities are fading—a comedy—will be directed by Tina Packer. It opens July 23 for a five-week run.

Lucy Kirkwood’s play “The Children,” directed by James Warwick—who won last year’s Outstanding Director of a Play award at the BTCA ceremony—and starring Ariel Bock, Jonathan Epstein and Diane Prusha takes a look at the future of the world after a nuclear event. It is scheduled to open July 18 and run for a month. Both plays are scheduled for the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre on the Shakespeare campus.

Thomas Brazzle. Photo courtesy Shakespeare & Company

“Topdog/Underdog” by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Regge Life and featuring Thomas Brazzle and Deaon Griffin-Pressley, takes over the mainstage of the Tina Packer Playhouse Aug. 13 for a run lasting only until Sept. 8. The idea of family and the chances brothers may take is at the root of this play, which uses the “three-card Monte” scheme as an onstage metaphor. Pulitzer Prize-nominated, this play is a strong contender for a mid-season production.

Tamara Hickey

Closing the season in the Bernstein is Donald Margulies’ play “Time Stands Still,” directed by Nicole Ricciardi and featuring Tamara Hickey. Contrasting the consequences of one’s choices with the growing need to cover major clashes in our world, this play may be one of the strongest season closers the company has yet presented. It opens Sept. 13 for a one-month run.

The three Shakespeare classics are “Twelfth Night,” “The Taming of the Shrew” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” a play Burrows referred to as one of the stupidest plays written. Its comic setup, a braggadocio Falstaff attempting to seduce married women who play him for a fool, was one that delighted Queen Elizabeth I. They play him some very odd tricks in the course of the play and, in the hands of director Kevin G. Coleman in the Roman Garden Theatre, it promises to be more than merely amusing. It opens Aug. 8 and features Nigel Gore as Falstaff and MaConnia Chesser and Jennie M. Jadow as two of the clever wives.

Ella Loudon as LaBelle in the Shakespeare & Company production of ‘As You Like It.’ Photo: Nile Scott Studios

“Twelfth Night,” a play featuring cross-dressing and lover’s quarrels as major plot points, opens July 2 in the Tina Packer Playhouse for a one-month run. Burrows is directing this, the sixth production he has been involved with but has never staged before, and it is being set in that era of change of 1958–62. Ella Loudon plays the female protagonist and Martin Jason Asprey, Gregory Boover, Thomas Brazzle and Deaon Griffin-Pressley are some of the men she confounds along the way.

In the Dell at the Mount, the company will present “The Taming of The Shrew,” a play that demands the tolerance of modern audiences as a willful, strong-headed, intelligent woman is reduced to marital servitude by her loving boor of a husband. Starting July 9 for a five-week run, the play will be an outdoor treat.

John Douglas Thompson. Photo courtesy Shakespeare & Company

With two of its Shakespeares played in the outdoor spaces and one in the Playhouse, there is room for a six-performance workshop of one more Shakespeare classic, one not often seen: “Coriolanus.” Daniela Varon will direct Burrows, Packer and John Douglas Thompson in this staged reading from Aug. 21–25 in the Bernstein Theatre. Tickets will be hard to get, so don’t wait to book.

In addition to all this, the 2019 gala on June 29 will be a tribute to the work and talents of Doug and Julia Trumbull. A very special performance will be followed by dinner and dancing in the garden.

“We’re really about the power of language and relationships on stage this season,” Burrows said. “Each playwright uses language with brilliance. It’s a season for the reality that comes out of the work.”

Three- and six-show FLEXpasses are now on sale and the advantage there is a possible savings of up to 40 percent of fthe ticket price. Single tickets will go on sale in February. Tickets for the gala may be reserved by calling Natalie Johnsonius Neubert at (413) 637-1199 x180.


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