Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
by Shera Cohen
On any single weekday, you can see five plays at Shakespeare & Company (S&Co). On any single weekend, (how about a short stay in the beautiful Berkshires?) you can see as many as 11 performances. A significant number of the plays are those by Shakespeare, of course. However, for those who might not feel comfortable with the Bard, then there’s the “& Company” part of the troupe’s title.
Let’s take an arbitrary day. How about Wednesday, August 6th. The day’s offerings are: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (this is Shakespeare’s writing at its best, but updated to 1930’s New Orleans), “The Servant of Two Masters” (by Carlo Goldoni with adaption by long-time S&Co. creative master of wit Jenna Ware at the helm), “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” (Christopher Durang’s contemporary salute to Chekhov), “The Complete Works of Wm Shakespeare - Abridged” (a modern day Cliff Notes compilation of all of Shakespeare’s 36 plays in two hours.) The latter is far from a history lesson; instead a somewhat risqué, non-stop, crazy, and hilarious look at the Bard’s works as performed by three actors in dozens of roles each. While it might help to be familiar with these works, audience members who are novices to Shakespeare will appreciate the ridiculously intense humor. This is definitely not a trip down the memory lane of high school English classes. And, if by chance, you might be tired of sitting all day, take a Behind the Scenes Tour to observe the inner workings of what makes S&Co. tick.
|Romeo & Juliet|
Can’t take time off from work? How about next weekend? Or any weekend? To the above list of five theatre experiences, let’s add performances of “Romeo & Juliet,” “Julius Caesar,” and “Henry IV, parts I & II,” (each unmistakably Shakespeare) along with “Shakespeare’s Will” by Vern Thiessen, starring S&Co. veteran Kristin Wold.
The only reason for it being impossible to see every program at the venue’s four stages is because some play times overlap, particularly as one production takes the Tina Packer Playhouse, another is mounted at the Bernstein Theatre. Yet, four of the five offerings on that Wednesday, and eight of the eleven on the weekend might be enough -- more than enough -- to entrench yourself in theatre.
Sorry...you can’t make it on Wednesday. Tuesday is better? Then add the Tuesday Talks to your “to do” list. Join actors, directors, et al at 5pm for discussions and Q&A on each of the season’s plays. For those about to experience a lesser-known Shakespeare play, in particular, the talk offers particular insight in a non-didactic environment.
Having already seen most of plays on the menu, let’s take a closer look to entice infrequent and new audiences.
|A Midsummer Night's Dream|
“Midsummer” It’s a literal and verbal romp in the forest, yet in Louisiana some decades ago. Would Shakespeare mind the update? Purists would say “yes.” I think he would say “Bravo.” With a large cast of S&Co. vets, Johnny Lee Davenport shines as the common man turned mule.
“Complete Works...” Twice might not have been enough times for me to see this fun piece. Jonathan Croy directs his trio of actors in a raucous melding of dramas, comedies, and histories in a Monty Python-ish spoof (yes, there is dismemberment).
“Shakespeare’s Will” You’re thinking, “I don’t like one-person plays.” Right? Kristin Wold as Will’s wife Anne Hathaway will change your mind about the merits of what one highly talented actor can produce on stage.
“Julius Caesar” Here, the company took the exact opposite approach as “Will” with six actors portraying 100 or so roles. The Talk immediately prior offered a focus on this warrior, his methodical mind, and his adversaries.
“Servant of Two Masters” The play highlights the talents of the student actors. The tent stage turned into centuries-old Italy coupled with commedia dell’arte mistaken identities, comic confusion, and lots of door slamming all in the sake of fun.
For information call 413-637-3353 or log onto www.Shakespeare.org.
Note: S&Co. doesn’t close the doors on Labor Day. Fall and winter productions mount the main stages.