It’s free, family-friendly and engineered for accessibility. For the sake of this week’s column, let’s assume that REV Theatre Company’s free production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Nay Aug Park next weekend (see Up Close & Personal with Michael Flynn) is a gateway drug that whets your appetite for a more hard core Shakespeare. Or maybe you’re already an addict. After all, just because you’ve chosen to live in The 570, doesn’t mean you’re culturally illiterate. What are we to do to get a fix after the two-day Scranton Shakespeare Festival packs its trunks and returns from whence it came?
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison, N.J., and the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival in Center Valley are both significantly closer than Philadelphia or New York City at a drive of about two hours. Both companies offer a schedule of non-Shakespearean works in addition to a couple of the Bard’s more popularly produced plays. Each is also offering an opportunity this summer to see a play that’s not so commonly staged. Theater geeks, mark your calendar.
Located on the campus of DeSales University, just south of Allentown, PSF is currently in the middle of a run of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd running through July 1 on the main stage in the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts and The Tempest which just opened Wednesday and continues through July 15 in the Schubert Theatre. The company will follow with Much Ado About Nothing July 11 through Aug. 5 in repertory with Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof July 19 through Aug. 5. The production I’m holding out for, however, is King John. One of the playwright’s earliest plays The Life and Death of King John is set during the reign of John, son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, during the first decade and a half of the 13th century. PSF describes its interpretation as “Extreme Shakespeare,” performed as it would have been in the author’s own time on the Schubert Theatre stage from July 25 to Aug. 5.
“Actors arrive with their lines learned, rehearse on their own, wear what they can find, and open in a matter of days. No director, no designers. Just great actors, a dynamic play, and pure adrenaline, spontaneity and creativity,” the company explains.
The text is characterized by “boundless ambition, corruption, and greed” as King John struggles to unite the country in the face of murder, intrigue, and usurping on all sides. Tickets range from $25 to $52 with student rush seats made available 30 minutes prior to curtain for only $10 with ID. Visit www.pashakespeare.org for more information or call the box office at (610) 282-WILL.
Located on the beautiful oak shaded campus of Drew University (my alma mater) three miles off Route 287, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (formerly the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season.
Its production of Henry IV Part I closes Sunday, while The Comedy of Errors will play on the outdoor stage at the nearby College of St. Elizabeth through July 29. I’ve got my eye on Measure for Measure, a lesser-produced dark comedy that was considered somewhat scandalous in Shakespeare’s time for its lustful and violent story line and criticism of bethroal customs and ridiculous matrimony laws. The play is directed by artistic director Bonnie J. Monte and is scheduled to run Aug. 8-26. Also on the schedule this summer are David Ides’s adaptation of the 17th century Pierre Corneille comedy The Liars July 4-29, and Neil Barlett’s adaptation of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens opening Sept. 12. The company will stage Man of La Mancha in the fall and close out the season with Trelawny of the Wells in December. Tickets range from approximately $40 to $55 purchased individually (subscription packages offer a considerable savings per seat). Call the box office at (973) 408-5600 or visit www.shakespearenj.org for more information.