In honor of its 20th anniversary summer season of Shakespeare, classic and contemporary plays, along with staged versions of works by writer Edith Wharton, Shakespeare & Company, located in Lenox, MA on Wharton's estate, will present two new one-act Wharton adaptations. Also on tap is a July 5 benefit gala, featuring Olympia Dukakis, Zoe Caldwell and Maureen Stapleton.
The first of the "Wharton One-Acts" is The Pretext, adapted by Allison Ragland, directed by "One Acts" directing team Jonathan Epstein and Andrew Borthwick-Leslie. The Pretext follows the story of a young English houseguest who falls in love with his older, married, upper class American hostess. When he returns to London and breaks off his prior, clandestine engagement, it creates quite a pickle for all characters involved.
"The themes in Pretext resonate throughout our society," Ragland said. "Whether or not the love between non-traditional couples can survive, and if so, at what cost."
Following The Pretext is The Verdict, adapted by Jim Nutter, also directed by Epstein and Borthwick-Leslie. The Verdict sends an American travel writer to France, in search of the reason why his best friend, a famous artist, has stopped painting unusually early in his career. Simultaneously, art galleries in Chicago are bursting with aficionados, who are wildly speculating on the mysterious "retirement," to hilarious limits.
"Jonathan and I have been fortunate enough to be able to work with both playwrights throughout the rehearsal process," said Borthwick-Leslie. "We've been able to adjust the text and characters so that the script is expressed honestly and dramatically, and in the case of The Verdict, on what makes us laugh the most." Wharton One Acts : "The Pretext" and "The Verdict" began previews at Shakespeare and Co. June 27, and runs through Aug. 30 in the Wharton Theatre, which is located in Edith Wharton's Salon. A 94-seat theatre, the small playing space overlooks the a meadow and the Berkshire hills. Next to the theatre is Ms. Wharton Dining Room, in which Shakespeare and Company continues Wharton's tradition of afternoon tea.
Shakespeare & Co. asks audiences to please dress comfortably for the warm afternoons. Seating is general admission. Other highlights of the season include Henry IV, Part I, The Winter's Tale, Ethan Frome and the 20th Season Gala Celebration, on Saturday July 5.
That special fundraising event will feature Olympia Dukakis performing extracts from her solo, The Mystery Of Things: A Woman's Exploration of Lear. Also on hand will be Zoe Caldwell (Master Class, Maureen Stapleton and Shakespeare & Co. Co-founder Kristin Linklater, who will all read passages from the Bard and Tennessee Williams. RSC associate artist Janet Suzman will perform excerpts from An Agreeable Blunder, about the nature of womankind.
For tickets or more information on the season or the Gala, please call (413) 637-1199, or refer to the Shakespeare & Co / The Wharton Theatre regional listing on Playbill On-Line.