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Last Update:
June 15, 2024


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Special Announcement

Shakespeareances.com will join Shakespeare Opera Theatre for “The Macbeth Code,” an evening of discussion about the play and its times, Gaelic harp performances, and vignettes from Verdi’s opera, 7 p.m., July 8, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 8991 Brook Road, McLean, Virginia. For details,¬†click here.

What's new on Shakespeareances.com

Shakespeareances.com is undergoing an infrastructure and design overhaul. Meantime, new reviews, commentaries, updates to Bard on the Boards, and other features will be posted in this current framework. This site has a lot of content to reorganize and rebuild, so it's going to take awhile

Added to Bard on the Boards

New list: What's Playing When

Shakespeare by the Sea (California)
American Shakespeare Center

Flock Theatre
Everyman Theatre
Olney Theatre Center
Taffety Punk
Shakespeare Opera Theatre
Shakespeare in the Vines
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Folger Theatre
Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
Idaho Shakespeare Festival
Utah Shakespeare Festival
Texas Shakespeare Festival
Taffety Punk Theatre Company
Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

Commentary

Henry V's Vietnam War: A True Band of Brothers and Sisters

The Tragicomedy of Errors:
A Passion Play

As Flies to Wanton Boys Are We to the Gods

The Comeback: A Tragedy Overtakes a Blissful Comedy

Time's Passages: My Love's Labor Now My Winter's Tale

On Stage

Romeo and juliet: Real Lives, Real Love, Real Tragedy

A King and No King: Shakespeare Meets Arrested Development

Hamlet: Hark! How These Angels Sing

Richard III: Crowning Chutzpah with Crutches

The Merry Wives of Windsor: Digging Up Shakespeare Gold in Alaska

On Screen

Shakespeare Uncovered 2: Second Set of Mini-Documentaries Reveals Bard's Brilliance with Filmmaking to Match

Still Dreaming: Past the Wit of Man to Say What Dream it Was

Twelfth Night: What Achieved Greatness Was Born Great

Romeo and Juliet: Too Dumb for Tweens

The Hollow Crown—Henry V: The Crown Comes Full Circle

On Air

Much Ado About Nothing: The Couple in Love, With Their Own Selves

The Tempest: A 1612 Space Oddity

Hamlet: Good Radio vs. Good Shakespeare: With This Hamlet It's a Drawl

Midsummer Night's Dream: To See a Voice and Hear a Face With Fairy Magic and Bottom's Roar

Romeo and Juliet: The Tone Is Out of Joint

In Print

The Year of Lear: His Life in His Time

The Book of William: Book a Journey through First Folios

Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Beyond Even Unreasonable Doubt Book Establishes Shakespeare's Authorship

Hobson Woodwards' A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest

Stephen Landrigan and Qais Akbar Omar's Shakespeare in Kabul

Interviews

A Euphoric Juliet: Where Under-the-Skin Happens

An "Endlessly Fascinating" Richard III: DruidShakespeare's Aaron Monaghan Channels a Memory and the Real Richard

Fiasco Theater: How Downsizing Leads To Supersizing Shakespeare

Olivia and Maria: From Mourning to Light, Tonya Beckman Plays through Two Twelfth Nights

Richard III and Queen Margaret: Four Years, Two Immortal Enemies

Bardroom

King Lear's Sad Time:
What Must We Obey?

Racial Casting and Theatrical Sacrilege

Gender Politics in Staging Shakespeare

And Also

2018 In Review and Top 25 + 5 Shakespeareances

Top 40 Shakespeareances


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Shakespeare Canon Project link

Venus and Adonis

An Elizabethan Peep Show

Lise Bruneau and Tonya Beckmen stand behind their music stands, looking at each other with big smiles and Beckman casually pointing a finger at BruneauTaffety Punk Theatre Company is a small but brightly shining gem in the Washington, D.C., theater scene, a richly talented acting company displaying a brilliantly inventive willingness to explore conceptual stagings of William Shakespeare’s works. This includes those narrative poems at the back of your edition of Shakespeare's Complete Works. Having staged The Rape of Lucrece in 2012, they have now undertaken Venus and Adonis, which could well have been Elizabethan porn. The two narrators, Tonya Beckman and Lise Bruneau, gave Shakespeare's vividly descriptive verses a cheeky resonance. For the review, click here.

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Putting On the Putin

Denzel Washington as Macbeth looking contemplative in royal robe with curtained background (black and white photograph).When Joel Coen released The Tragedy of Macbeth in 2022, did he know he had filmed a biopic of Vladimir Putin? When Denzel Washington turned his calculating Macbeth into a regicidal despot in one pivotal scene, was he channeling the Russian dictator raging at Volodymyr Zelensky’s government? When William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in 1606, did he have the war in Ukraine in mind? The first two questions, probably not, but I can definitively answer that last question. Shakespeare portrayed human nature in all its dimensions, dimensions that haven’t changed in 500 years. That’s the thrilling yet unsettling relevancy of Shakespeare’s composition emerging out of the darkness of Coen’s film. Even with textual cuts bringing his movie in at 108 minutes, Coen unpacks Macbeth’s universal truths in traditional and novel ways. For the complete review, click here.

Macbeth

War’s Tomorrow

Macbeth in battle uniform and holding glass of booz sits on a chair in front of the steps of the bunkerLook at the face. As you walk through the door on your way to the theater, you pass a soldier—British, American, or from some other 2024 army—hanging out by a burned-out car. As you take in the whole battle-scarred landscape, be sure to look at the soldier’s face: a face we’ve seen in photographs from the American Civil War through two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and into Ukraine and Palestine. Minutes later you’ll see another such battle-weary soldier’s face, though one familiar to you not as a soldier but as one of the supreme Shakespeare actors of our time, Ralph Fiennes, playing Macbeth in the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production in Washington, D.C. Listen to that face as it takes you into his mental chambers where you will vividly see what is in the minds behind the faces from Antietam to Afghanistan. To continue reading this review, click here. (This review updated upon second viewing with clarifications and correction of scene order.)

Addendum: Filmed Version:
Shakespeare Theatre Company filmed this production and screened it at Harman Hall, May 17-19. My review of the film version has been attached to the bottom of the production review.

In Memoriam: Carol Adele Kelly. 1931-2024

A Love of Words, Words, Words

Carol Kelly wearing a green sweater and glasses and expressing herself with hand gestures, sits in an overstuffed brown chair with a tany blanket hung over its back.My tribute to Carol Kelly, Shakespeareances.com's copy editor since the website's inception in 2011, became an in memoriam this morning, April 7, 2024. Carol was 94 years old. Cause of death was gall bladder cancer. Upon learning of her prognosis in February, I visited her in Cincinnati, Ohio. Following that visit (I would visit her again one last time a couple weeks later), I wrote this tribute to my teammate, an outstanding grammarian, a good comrade, a special mother, a most-loved grandmother, and a constant inspiration for me the past 18 years—ever since I tried to fire her. For the full tribute, click here.

Pericles

A Quadruple-Quality Life

King Simonides with a cornet crown, drabby clothes, and red checkered robe flapping off his outstretched arms as he parties like Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson on one leg amid a circle of men wearing toga sashes and a woman in peasant serving clothes.“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players," William Shakespeare wrote in his play As You Like It. "And one man in his time plays many parts”— parts meaning roles, which, theatrically, are individual persons. Turn that conceit around, and you could say many parts make up one man. As we grow older, our individual selves combine to create an increasingly complex but unified whole self that is greater than the sum of its parts. Shakespeare addresses this redirection with his late-career play Pericles. At least, that’s the metaphor Fiasco Theater teases out of this much-maligned play in their fascinating production at Classic Stage Company in which four men each play one part of Pericles. To read the full review, click here.

Desperate Measures

Riffing on a Problem Play's Problems

The Governor in a gold robe lined in brown fur winces as Susanna, in a blue and white novice nun habit, pokes her pinky at his face. In the background are windows and wood table and chair.Desperate Measures, Peter Kellogg's and David Friedman's M-rated Disneyesque musical comedy set in the 19th century American West, is "inspired by"—but not an adaptation of—William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Important distinction. Yet their work, while using rhyming couplets for its spoken script, makes its most significant contribution to Bardology by virtue of just six lines in Shakespeare's play through which their "inspired by" gushes. That premise may merely be highfalutin Shakesgeek navel-gazing though, as the musical is fun in itself with its uniquely rich characters, clever humor, and catchy tunes that Constellation Theatre Company delivers in a well-acted, well-sung production at the Source Theatre in Washington, D.C.To read the full review, click here.

A Commedia Romeo and Juliet

Fools Revisit a Landmark Production

The "Capulet Cast" sitting on or pushing a trunk, in costume, masks pulled up on the top of their heads, and arms spread in greeting. One of my great rewards doing Shakespeareances has been experiencing the connection between William Shakespeare and commedia dell’arte, the masked and hyperphysical street theater tradition that originated in early 16th century Italy. I owe this discovery to the Washington, D.C., Faction of Fools, theater company and their landmark 2012 production of A Commedia Romeo and Juliet. The images of that production have romped through my memory ever since and returned in present flesh as Faction of Fools remounted the show at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in January. With some script adjustments and two casts, it's a twin bill with threefold delights. For the complete review, click here.

My Ever-Ending Hiatus

It’s Time

"We must keep moving. If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving." Martin Luther King Jr. said this in 1960, a month before I turned two. Yesterday, his words came to me when I stalled on making a decision I thought I was ready for. It gave me the push I needed. Fitting, for I honor the national holiday commemorating his birthday by engaging in some form of public service. It's the right time to announce that Shakespeareances.com is officially coming out of a nearly four-year hiatus and back to full operational status. For my formal statement, the hiatus history, and my plans going forward, click here.

On Stage: As You Like It

A Magical Mystical Tour de Force

Two guitarists in 1960s clothing play in front of a wrestling ring, and colorful lit panels framing a montage of neon signs. Referee running around to dismantle the ring.Blasphemous, some might call what Daryl Cloran has done to William Shakespeare's As You Like It, blending it with 23 classic Beatles songs. Brilliant, I say. Though it is not totally textually Shakespeare’s As You Like It, it is enriched Shakespeare metaphorically in the way it combines the Fab Four of Liverpool’s compositions with the Swan of Avon’s text. Nor is this an academic appreciation of two great artistic forces blended into one. This Bard on the Beach production, now running at Shakespeare Theatre Company's Harman Hall in Washington, D.C., is a two-hour, 40-minute (including preshow) laugh-in with great singing, dancing, and wrestling, too. Not often you get an Orlando whose talents combine Shakespeare, Paul McCartney, Gene Kelly, Ann Margaret, and Cactus Jack in one performance. For the complete review, click here.

And for a summary of the Beatles songbook used for the play, click here.

In Print: Cutting Plays for Performance:

Cover of book "Cutting Plays for Performance: A Practical and Accessible Guide" by Toby Malone and Aili Huber with strips of text crossing a a montage  of play peformances through history.Cutting Up

Cutting plays is a foundational practice in theater, especially with the scripts of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. With their book Cutting Plays for Performance, Toby Malone and Aili Huber pull the curtain on that practice. In addition to explaining the many purposes and parameters for making cuts, they offer practical tips and anecdotal experience for new hands at what is a daunting and can be a dangerous task. For the complete review, click here.

On Stage: The Winter's Tale

Shaking Booty and Hearing Voices

Autolycus in rustic hat, beard, multicolored coat over orange coverals dances with two women in peasant dresses on a green-grass stage with a large "Welcom" poster featuring a sheep on the back walla. There’s a lot of Bohemian booty shaking at the Folger. That is the lasting impression of the Tamilla Woodard-directed production of William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale—perhaps unfortunate, depending on your theatrical tastes and tolerance for booty-shaking. I’m wide open on my theatrical tastes and indifferent to booties that shake, but Bohemia is not where this play ends. Besides, it was the production’s first impression that spoke more profoundly to me—spoke being a literal term, for I've been hearing voices lately, too. For the full review, click here.

On Stage: Shakespeare Everywhere Festival

Shakespeare Everywhere logo, a sky blue background with a white pencil drawing outline of William Shakespeare's portrait and at the bottom the words in cursive: "12 shows, 12 weeks, 1 city."12 Washington D.C. Institutions Stage
23 Shakespearean Productions and Events

World-class productions, fascinating debates, amazing opportunities to get behind the scenes, and all on your doorstep. This fall in Washington, Shakespeare will truly be everywhere. Shakespeareances is covering the event in (almost) its entirety. For a list of productions and other events, click here.

On Stage: Evita

A Rice-Webber "History" Play

Under a spotlight, Eva Peron wearing a bared-shoulder, white ball gown, sings amid layers of candlit fwhite flowers.How many earworms can you stand? I drove home from Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of the Tim Rice–Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita with “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” playing on a loop in my mind. Each day thereafter, a different earworm: “High Flying, Adored,”“And the Money Kept Rolling In,”“Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,”“A New Argentina,” and even “On This Night of a Thousand Stars”—yep, a deliberately cheesy song can be an indelible moment in Evita. This production of the Rice-Webber masterpiece is loaded with indelible moments, from its musical compositions and performances to its perspective, which director Sammi Cannold has wrested from its white Anglo male creators and mixed in a woman’s worldview and Argentinian authenticity. But how authentic is the portrayal of Eva Perón nee Eva Duarte? For that, we turn to Shakespeare's Henry V nee Prince Hal. For the complete review, click here.

On Stage: A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Beach Town Makes Shakespeare
The Ultimate Community Theater

Poster using pictures (sea urchins, colorful mushrooms, a butterfly, a donkey, and a little boy in a space helmet and wearing butterfly wings, and letters cut out from magazines all on a beachy background: "A Midsummer Night's Dream, August 16-20, 2013, 7:30 pm, Rockaway Beach NY, Beach 95 Amphitheater, Free Admission!! Brought to you by Shakespeare on the BeachA new theater company called Shakespeare on the Beach set out to bring Shakespeare to New York City's Rockaway Beach. But life began imitating the very art it was presenting as external conditions and internal catastrophes threatened to turn the production into a most lamentable comedy on a scale that the rude mechanicals would slink away from. But magic happened on opening night—which ended up being closing night, too—and we not only have a tale of perseverance but a case study in how to bring Shakespeare into the community by bringing the community into the Shakespeare. This is a long one, folks, but, whoa! what a night, which you can experience by clicking here.

Reader Comment added September 2, 2023.

On Stage: The Taming of the shrew

Petruchio in striped shirt and torn pants holds Katherina's left hand with both of his. He's shouting, she, in hooded sweater and sweat pants, is looking dumbfounded. Behind them, Baptista in a suit has his hands raised, to the right Tranio in panama hat and jacket has her arms outstretched, and to the left Gremeo is leaning on his cane.Two Outcasts Cast Their Lots With Each Other

It is my long-stated opinion that William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew has always been and is still a love story. Now, here is a production at the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse that fully plays it that way, but with advantages. That’s thanks to director José Zayas and his two lead actors who turn textual nuggets into a viable, relatable story arc for Katherina and Petruchio. For the complete review, click here.

On Stage: Much Ado About Nothing

It's a Musical (No Kidding)

Benedick in black waistcoat and white puffy sleeves holds the right hand and has his right hand  on the shoulder of Beatrice in red dress, white puffy sleeves, and flower head band Northern Virginia’s Shakespeare Opera Theater has evolved since its founding in 2015, from pairing productions of a William Shakespeare play and its operatic off-shoot to single productions mashing the two art forms together. This year, the company demonstrates how its mashup concept has come full circle: it’s revisiting the two iterations of Much Ado About Nothing the company paired in its debut season but as one unified piece of work. The result is a singular dramatic experience, which we’ll call a musical, with music and lyrics by Hector Berlioz and book by William Shakespeare. For the complete review, click here.