The Shakespeare Theatre of Washington, D.C., is finally bringing King John to the nation's capital, some 400 years after the play first premiered. The upcoming production, to be directed by artistic director Michael Kahn, will be Washington's first-ever look at Shakespeare's lesser known historical drama.
The text will not be purely Shakespeare's, however. Kahn, seemingly hoping to improve on the Bard, has refashioned the play, incorporating material from an anonymous work called The Troublesome Reign of John, King of England.
Philip Goodwin will play the king, who, in the play, is threatened with excommunication by the Church, an invasion by French troops, and attempts upon his throne by his sister's son, Arthur. Supporting Goodwin are Tana Hicken as John's mother Eleanor, and Jennifer Harmon, as John's sister-in-law Constance.
Kahn has previously directed Richard III , Henry IV , Henry V and Henry VI at the Shakespeare Theatre.
King John will begin performances Jan. 19, open Jan. 24 and run through Mar. 6. *
Currently playing at the Shakespeare Theatre is Twelfth Night, running through Jan. 3, 1999, directed by Daniel Fish, who piloted last season's The Merry Wives of Windsor.
The comedy -- which recently received a high-profile production at Lincoln Center, starring Helen Hunt and directed by Nicholas Hytner -- stars Tari Signor as Viola, Dallas Roberts as Sebastian, Melissa Bowen as Olivia, Floyd King as Malvolio, Ted van Griethuysen as Sir Toby Belch, Graham Winton as Duke Orsino, Michael Rudko as Feste and Paul Mullins as Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Signor is familiar to New York audiences from Mr. Peters' Connections and Death Defying Acts.
The rest of the company's 1998-99 season is as follows:
Following King John, director JoAnne Akalaitis arrives, Mar. 23-May 8, 1999, to stage Euripides' Trojan Women. It's a look at war's effect on women on the losing side. Surprisingly, this is the first time a Greek play has been staged at the Shakespeare.
Then Hal Holbrook appears as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Artistic director Michael Kahn will stage Shakespeare's controversial comedy (which is generally played as drama because of its arguably anti Semitic content). Holbrook has already played the vengeful Jewish merchant, Shylock, at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre. Last on Broadway in An American Daughter, Holbrook is best known for his solo, Mark Twain Tonight!, for which he won a Tony. He's played King Lear at Off Broadway's Roundabout Theatre and on Broadway in The Glass Menagerie, Man of La Mancha and I Never Sang For My Father.
For subscriptions ($125-$280) and other information on the Shakespeare Theatre season call (202) 547-1122.
-- By Robert Simonson