More than any other season in recent memory, New York stages — on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in Brooklyn — are replete with titles by the Bard. And not just productions — great productions, brimming with invention and expertise.
Opened so far this fall is the Donmar Warehouse's all-female, prison-set Julius Caesar, which was presented by St. Ann's Warehouse; and director Julie Taymor's triumphant return to classical theatre with a visually stunning mounting of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which opened Theatre For a New Audience's new Brooklyn, home. Both were given the critics' full-hearted stamp of approval. (The David Leveaux rendition of Romeo and Juliet on Broadway was not as lucky with critics; nor was Tea Alagic's version of the same play at Classic Stage Company. But, hey, it was nice to have two simultaneously playing Romeos in town anyway.)
Still to come is the Lincoln Center Theater revival of Macbeth starring Ethan Hawke and directed by Jack O'Brien; it is now in previews.
This week, however, saw what will likely emerge as the crowning glories of this Bard-olific season: The Shakespeare's Globe's all male, in-rep productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III, starring Mark Rylance as Richard III and Olivia. The actors all played in period-correct costuming, right down to their undergarments; the musical accompaniment came courtesy of medieval instruments; the stage was a mock-up of one Queen Elizabeth might have seen; and some of the lighting was provided by six chandeliers filled with lit candles. And the critics were enchanted by it all — the across-the-board fine acting not the least.
The New York Times' Ben Brantley's reaction to Twelfth Night — "I can't remember being so ridiculously happy for the entirety of a Shakespeare performance" — pretty much summed up the critics' assessment." "It's hard to imagine six more exciting hours of vital, emotionally and intellectually engaging theater, even for those of us who have at times felt bom-Barded by Shakespeare overload," observed The Hollywood Reporter.
The Daily News pointed out that the plays' attractions went well beyond star Rylance: "It takes more than one great actor to make Shakespeare really click. Rylance is surrounded by a sublime company, who move seamlessly between the plays." And the New York Post highlighted the appeal of the repertory aspect, saying, "Twelfth Night is the better show, but seeing both productions lets you watch the actors slip into completely different roles. You're not just going to the theater — you're experiencing what makes it magic. "
Also unveiled this week was the second Broadway go-round of stage and screen star Billy Crystal's ode to his late father, 700 Sundays, which officially opened at the Imperial Theatre Nov. 13 at 7 PM following previews that began Nov. 5.
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