First to announce a look at their 2017-2018 season is Shakespeare Theatre Company which will open with two minimalist one-act plays by Harold Pinter and bookend them with the grand musical Camelot. In between: a visit from the Druid Theatre Company of Ireland and plenty of Shakespeare. (STC has not released specific dates and one production remains to be announced).
The Pinter plays are The Collection and The Lover. STC Artistic Director Michael Kahn will direct them both. The Collection, a 1961 play, is the story of two couples — Stella and James, and Bill and Harry — and the question on the table is whether Stella and Bill had a one-night stand. Answers, as you might imagine, are slow in coming. “This show provides an inviting gateway to audiences new to one of the greatest of British playwrights, while reminding disciples of the human warmth within his icy mazes,” Ben Brantley of the New York Times said in reviewing a 2010 revival.
The Collection has a reputation of attracting excellent actors; in the 1976 Granada Television production, Laurence Olivier played Harry, Malcolm McDowell played Bill, Helen Mirren played Stella and Alan Bates was James. In a 1998 Donmar Warehouse production, Pinter himself played Harry.
The Lover, which premiered a year later, is about a married couple’s exploration of role-playing. The Guardian’s Michael Billington, reviewing a 2008 production, said that The Lover is “a near-flawless structure that does something rare in English drama: it shows that to survive, most marriages need a strong element of sexual fantasy.” Billington notes that “the play, which caused a mild furor on TV in 1963, tells the candid truth about the middle-class marriage.”
“In a time when the definitions of truth and fact have become controversial, Pinter feels like a powerful reflection of our current anxieties,” said Kahn. “I have always been fascinated by the way these two early works pair with each other and with what they say about the mysterious nature of desire and identity. Pinter is quite simply a master and I look forward to being in his world again.”
Ethan McSweeney will then helm a production of Twelfth Night, the Shakespearian comedy where — deep breath, now — Viola, shipwrecked, disguises herself as a boy and puts herself in service to Orsino, who employs her to court Olivia on his behalf; whereupon Olivia falls in love not with Orsino but the “boy”; meanwhile her drunk uncle Sir Toby Belch is trying to get Olivia to marry the preposterous Aguecheek while plotting against her officious majordomo Malvolio. You know the one, right?
STC last performed Twelfth Night nine years ago. At the time, DCTS praised “the army of highly amusing, completely original and sharply-drawn side characters who scaffold the story with subplots” and noted that “the character of Aguecheek…is one of the funniest in all Shakespeare.” McSweeney has recently directed Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest at STC.
The company will also be producing Hamlet, arguably the greatest English-language play in history. “I am always finding new things to discover in this endlessly compelling play, which has a surprising amount to say about our contemporary politics,” says Kahn, who will direct. “Very exciting plans are already in the works for casting.”
The company last did this play in 2007, when Kahn also directed. “In Hamlet, the characters construct a castle of words, which also serves as a laboratory in which they can examine their choices. Not only Hamlet but all characters are prone to tests and measurements,” DCTS said at the time. “This lush, gorgeous, thrilling, lucid, hilarious, moving, profound production of Hamlet succeeds.”
Ireland’s Druid Theatre will be in town with its production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. The absurdist masterpiece, a vaudeville act of endless inaction, is generally considered Beckett’s greatest work, and the Druid production has already earned high praise. “Druid’s exceptional new production [is] miraculous,” said Peter Crawley of the Irish Times. “Chosen for staging by its superb cast, directed with vigour and heart by [Tony Award winner] Gary Hynes, and realised with insightful, artful simplicity by designer Francis O’Connor, this is the freshest, funniest and most affecting production of the play in at least a quarter of a century.”
STC closes the so-far-known portion of its schedule with the musical Camelot, which Associate Artistic Director Alan Paul will direct. “This musical is a celebration of enlightened government and the dangers we all feel when it is taken away,” Kahn said. “I believe it will feel very current under Alan’s talented direction and that audiences will experience it in a fresh and immediate way.”
In addition to its regularly-scheduled productions, STC will reprise Othello as its annual Free-for-all production. Othello, which ran at Harman Hall from late February to early April of 2016, is the story of a Moor selected to lead a European Army who has a Caucasian wife, and who is defamed and inflamed for both reasons.
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