Triple play: 3 engaging Shakespeare shows in Puget Sound parks
The 2012 outdoor-theater season is under way in the Seattle area. Three shows playing in local parks: Wooden O's "Twelfth Night"; GreenStage's "Henry VIII"; a pared-down "Macbeth" by Last Leaf.
Seattle Times theater critic
Shakespeare in the parks"Twelfth Night," produced by Wooden O, through Aug. 12 (www.seattleshakespeare.org)
"Henry VIII," produced by Greenstage, through Aug. 18 (www.greenstage.org)
"Macbeth," produced by Last Leaf, through Aug. 12 (www.lastleaf99.org)
The actors must compete with jet noise, bird squawks and a drift-in audience. But in this trio of outdoor Shakespeare entries, all presented admission-free and touring in local parks, the play is still the thing.
A reason this Shakespeare lark is one of his most-produced in current times? It's a ribald roundelay set on a mythical island. And it's easy to reset anywhere else that suits your fancy.
Wooden O has hit the "refresh" button with a diverting conceit for its new summer-touring take on the play. The tale of mismatched lovers, cross-dressing and drunken revels unfolds in a beach town circa the 1960s — the kind where frat boys spend their spring breaks.
With its clever echoes of "Gilligan's Island," pop-music refs and many enjoyable sight gags, this is a rollicking diversion conjured by director Makaela Pollock.
Handling the broad high jinks with style are Jim Gall, as a lovable maritime version of the boozy old rascal Sir Toby Belch; George Mount as the pretentious, picked-upon servant Malvolio; and Matt Shimkus as Sir Toby's dense, preening pal, Andrew Aguecheek, among others.
Once again, Wooden O sets a high bar for free, on-the-fly Shakespeare comedy in local parks.
— Misha Berson
Ah, the political maneuvering, the unbridled ambition and the venal efforts to dispose of one's rivals. No, it's not about contemporary politics. It's Shakespeare's final play, "Henry VIII," in which there are no battle scenes, no sword fights. Instead we have intrigue and struggles of conscience.
Katherine, Henry's devoted wife of 20 years, hasn't produced an heir, so randy Hank is looking for another brood mare despite the Catholic ban on divorce. When Anne Boleyn catches his eye, his subordinates are expected to work out the problem for Henry (Daniel Guttenberg, who plays the monarch robustly).
This GreenStage park-touring production offers lush costumes and compelling acting. Director Teresa Thuman places her actors in front of, beside, and even behind the audience, and it's effective stagecraft.
Erin Day is a powerful Katherine, playing with our emotions as she moves from piety to anger, from heartbreak to strength. Her deathbed scene is wonderfully staged. The commanding voice and presence of Michael Blum make him a powerful Cardinal Wolsey. He's a man who double-deals with finesse.
This is a good enough production to make one wonder why the play is so rarely produced.
— Nancy Worssam, special to The Seattle Times
Last Leaf Productions has pared its Eastside touring version of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" down to 50 minutes. In doing so, the troupe has managed to maintain some of the classic's dramatic tension and retain most of the lines that have become so familiar to us. It's a good presentation of the famous tale for young and old who want the experience of theater in a tranquil park setting — but feel they can't manage two or more hours of Shakespeare.
However, when a company boils down a play to not much more than a CliffsNotes version, it does lose power. (Youngsters won't be frightened at the gore of this "Macbeth," because most of it occurs offstage.)
Director Charles Eliot's production works well with an open park setting. The stage set is an extended screen behind which actors change costumes and from which they make their entrances and exits. Sadly the company doesn't enhance sound, and this can be a problem in some locales.
Costumes, though simple, evoke the era, and the swordplay we do see is well-choreographed. Among the actors, Mary Murfin Bayley as Lady Macbeth is a standout. And the witches cleverly use a blanket/shroud to add to their mystery.
— Nancy Worssam