The Illinois Shakespeare Festival has announced its 2016 line-up of summer plays. And the winners are...
Hamlet, Twelfth Night and Peter and the Starcatcher!
Hamlet and Twelfth Night are the Shakespeare choices, obviously, with Rick Elice's Peter and the Starcatcher taking the "other" spot. That wildcard slot has been filled in recent years by funny, fizzy stuff like the Reduced Shakespeare Company's The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) -- twice -- and last year's Q Gents, the Q Brothers hip-hop take on Two Gentlemen of Verona, as well as classics like Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Rivals and an updated version of Scapin, plus newer, less easily pigeon-holed material like Philip Dawkins' Failure: A Love Story.
Broadway production that opened in 2012, and an another off-Broadway run after that. The Broadway version of Peter and the Starcatcher (whose logo you see here) was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning for its scenery, costumes, lights and sound, and bringing Christian Borle a Tony for his performance as "Black Stache," the forerunner to Captain Hook.
|David Tennant and Patrick Stewart in the|
Royal Shakespeare Company's 2008 Hamlet.
described as "futuristic space age" in tone and I seem to recall a Dickensian Christmas production as well as one that looked a bit like the Arabian Nights. Viola, the ship-wrecked twin dressed as a boy who wanders into Duke Orsino's court and falls in love, is one of Shakespeare's brightest, most charming heroines. Orsino and Olivia, the other two legs of the romantic triangle, can be a bit soggy, given that he's pining after her and she's in mourning and having none of his overtures, but they can also be quite wonderful in the right hands. And the supporting players -- a drunken oaf named Sir Toby Belch, his silly friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Malvolio, Olivia's uptight steward -- can also be hilarious or wrenching, depending on how they're handled. I recall an Illinois Shakespeare Festival production in the mid-90s with actor Frank Nall slipping into Malvolio's yellow stockings where it all worked like a charm. The 1996 film version with Imogen Stubbs and Helena Bonham Carter was also lovely. (See poster above.) Fingers crossed for another one like that either of those!
The Illinois Shakespeare Festival will begin its 39th season with preview performances on July 5,6 and 7, and official opening nights on July 8, 9 and 10. You can visit their Facebook page here or check out their website here.