The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1652 Wednesday, 20 August 2003
Date: Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003 13:42:55 -0400
Subject: Re: Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox
My annual pilgrimage to Shakespeare & Co. was abbreviated to a single
Saturday matinee and evening this year-- nowhere near enough time to
take in the riches this national treasure of a Company has to offer.
But the concentrated dose of Much Ado About Nothing at 3 pm and King
Lear at 8 pm, both in the new Founder's Theatre, demonstrated once
again the peculiar strengths and the endless fascination of the work of
a real actor-centered Rep company-- which is, after all, the sort of
company Will S. wrote his plays to accommodate.
I was a bit worried about my probable reaction to the Much Ado, directed
by Daniela Varon and described as set in 1950's Sicily. Not that I had
any reason to distrust the director or her choices-- I've seen nothing
but excellent work from Varon in the past. But the "Much Ado" S&C's AD
Tina Parker did some seasons back on the old outdoor Mainstage at the
Mount, with Jonathan Epstein as Benedict and Ariel Bock as Beatrice and
what seemed to be a cast of thousands peopling a world so beautiful and
vivid it almost hurt to look at, is at the very top of the list of
excellent productions I've seen in my half century of avid
Shakespeare-seeing. I wasn't sure I could avoid odorous comparisons.
But not to worry: Varon's is utterly different, and excellent in its
own more modest 16 actor way. It could serve as a model for the
effective and tasteful use of period pop culture references, a practice
which when ill done (as it most often is) sets my teeth on edge and
brings out the scolding Puritan in me.
I did miss a few of my favorite lines, trimmed to make room for '50's
music and business-- but the music and business were delightful. I'll
praise the individual performances and discuss the staging and
interpretation when I have more time, but for now I just want to urge
everyone who possibly can to get thee to Lenox MA and see these
wonderful shows. Back to back and with nearly the same cast playing
Lear in nearly the same set as Much Ado, the experience is a celebration
of the depth and range of ensemble acting not likely to be paralleled
anywhere. I've been looking forward to seeing what Jonathan Epstein
would do when he first tackled Lear for at least a decade-- but I never
expected to be blown away by his Dogberry on the very same day! This
list recently had a long discussion about the rarity of actors who excel
in both comic and tragic roles. Here, about half the Shakespeare & Co.
cast makes that huge leap in a mere matter of hours, triumphantly.
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