Summer has brought a variety of Shakespeare revivals and productions. Each play has the challenge of reviving the classic plays while managing the potential difficulties of Shakespearean verse along with the challenges of stage work. An important element of a Shakespeare plays success is the actor and their ability to meet the intense demands of classical acting. Theatre Critic, Charles McNulty reviewed the notable plays of the season and its actors in the LA Times article “Summer Shakespeare: A critic’s take on the secret to theatrical success”.
Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Henry IV, Parts I and II”
Antony Sher’s Falstaff in “Henry IV, Parts I and II” drew positive reviews from McCulty who described the actor’s performance as a “vivid characterization” shaped by the language. Sher’s Falstaff was enhanced by the clear delivery he brought the character’s wit. The goal of Sher was not to induce laughter. He gave the audience a view into the wit and psychology of Falstaff.
New Swan Shakespeare Festival’s “As You Like It”
Eli Simon, director of “As You Like It” placed the play in a 1930s Chicago (and later the woods) setting. McCulty notes the adherence to Shakespeare’s language as well as the slight shifts made to fit the play’s new era. The play ups the comic confusion of the original play’s mix of “mad and merry” mood with a mix of accents and a theatrics.
Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles’ “Twelfth Night”
Directed by Kenn Sabberton, the “Twelfth Night” transported the play from Illyria to WWII-era Santa Monica. This production had the added challenge of handling the wordplay of its subplots, however, the humor of the play still shone in this production. The production stumbled in balancing the humor and the characterization. However, the enchantment and magic of the play manages to come through.
Summertime’s Shakespeare productions keep the original intelligence behind the characters alive. Direction like the kind found in the “Twelfth Night”, “Henry IV” and “As You Like It” can clarify and enhance the themes for the modern audience. But it is Shakespeare’s power and mind that provides an enduring source of entertainment.