April 25, 2016
Robert Garnett is a professor of English literature at Gettysburg College Four centuries in the grave, Shakespeare is still with us. But times change; tastes alter; language evolves. Will he survive the 21st century? Over the years, he has annoyed even his greatest admirers. His friend (and rival) Ben Jonson scoffed at his learning ("small Latin, and less Greek") and wished he had revised more carefully. A great 18th-century critic complained that Shakespeare's swelling rhetoric often tarted up "trivial sentiments and vulgar ideas"; more perplexing was Shakespeare's addiction to "quibbles," or puns: "A quibble is to Shakespeare, what luminous vapours are to the traveller; . . . it is sure to lead him out of his way, and sure to engulf him in the mire.
October 31, 2015 |
It's not yet the Fifth of November, but Arden Theatre Company still remembers England's Gunpowder Plot, via Bill Cain's 2009 drama Equivocation . Cain, a Jesuit priest, explores the entanglements among Shakespeare - here tagged with an alternate spelling of his name, Shagspeare - King James I, Sir Robert Cecil, and the nature of playwriting, among other topics crammed into a play of Shakespearean proportions. Of course, there's only one Shakespeare (or is there? Cain also winks at that question a few times)
September 24, 2014 |
'Who is it that can tell me who I am?" So asks the aged monarch early on in Shakespeare's King Lear . But when Joseph Marcell, who brings his Lear to the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts this week, utters the line, someone in the audience invariably shouts back, "Geoffrey!"
July 14, 2013 |
AN ATTORNEY for jailed former state Sen. Vince Fumo complained in court yesterday that the once powerful Democrat, in a legal battle with his daughter, has been cast as King Lear, the tragic figure who goes mad trying to leave his holdings to his children. Normally you could chalk that up to overblown legal rhetoric. But with Fumo, who has a long history of relationships dissolving into disputes, attorney Thomas Leonard was spot on with the Shakespearean reference. The fight involves a trust fund Fumo set up with $3.2 million in 2006 for two of his three children, Vince Fumo Jr. and Allison Fumo.
April 7, 2013 |
The Philadelphia Artists Collective shows its collective courage once again. In choosing to give us a rare production of Shakespeare's Timon of Athens , it undertakes what few theater companies dare to do. It's a tough play, full of unlikable characters and difficult language; it hammers home the same idea over and over again, and this requires power and subtlety of delivery. So, I'm torn between admiration for the valiant attempt, and disappointment in the production. Written (probably)
March 9, 2010 |
By now, toying with King Lear, currently at People's Light and Theatre, is practically a required piece of programming. So long as its performers are solid, Shakespeare's tragedy about a father who, as Lear's Fool jabs, "shouldst not have been old before thou hadst been wise," rarely fails to move its audience. Scholars argue about whether Lear is Shakespeare's greatest tragedy or simply among his greatest, but perhaps its best argument for the top spot is that it is a lifelong pleasure, with revelations excavated only as the viewer ages.
December 19, 2008
E XCEPT FOR A surprise 2003 visit to assess the Eagles, it has been 11 years since Will Shakespeare gave his overview of the Philly sports scene. So much has changed since the end of the Gray Nineties, it's past time to catch up to The Bard, who is now a blogger. Catch Will's rants at BeheadOliverCromwell.com. The Blogging Bard came out smoking, weighing in on the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb controversies. BC: What's your biggest beef with Andy Reid? Bard: The play's the thing.
July 15, 2008 |
The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival produced King Lear not on its main stage but in its smaller black box theater, which means one thing: a new take on the old man. In the centuries since Lear was written, there have been a whole lot of reimaginings of Shakespeare's tale of filial impiety. Akira Kurosawa made Lear's girls into boys and placed the family in 16th-century Japan. Jane Smiley took the clan to the contemporary Midwest and gave the girls good reason to dislike Dad. Here, director Fontaine Syer takes an ingenious thematic leap with Lear as kingpin of a wiseguy empire, his retinue transformed into a posse of leather-jacketed, gold chain-wearing, hair-gelled pretenders to the throne.
April 4, 2008 |
Any director worth his/her tragic weight knows that in order to have a successful Othello, you have to pair him with an equally dynamic Iago. So if it makes your mouth water to hear that Lantern Theater's Charles McMahon has plucked two Philly favorites - Frank X and Peter Pryor - to fill the roles in the current production of Othello, you should also know you're in good company. The run was extended before the show even officially opened. Both actors have previously taken on Shakespeare at Lantern in Barrymore-worthy turns: X was nominated for the award for his portrayal of King Lear, and Pryor won it for his Richard III. So surprise, surprise, the pair tear up the stage like the pros they are. Pryor has a blast from his opening sneer to his final psychopathic chuckle, when ordered to behold the bloody mess he's caused.
September 15, 2007 |
The hot ticket is King Lear, but the show to see is The Seagull in the Royal Shakespeare Company's three-week visit to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which ends Sept. 30. Dominated by two of British theater's most venerable names, Ian McKellen and Trevor Nunn, the two plays are in repertory, with McKellen playing Lear and, in some performances, the secondary role of Sorin in The Seagull. Both are directed by Nunn and designed with a unit set by Christopher Oram that fits both: a dramatically sloping wall with molding that suits the rustic gentility of The Seagull, vaguely suggests Russia at the end of the Romanov dynasty in Lear, and is topped by a ceiling full of holes appropriate to the failing, jerry-built lives in both.