Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Bard's kings rule the summer stage

It's good to be king! There are some nice shows touring on the summer outdoor stages in the Seattle area, and the ones featuring the Bard's monarchs are the best of the bunch.

Vince Brady, left, as Lear and Sam Hagen as the Fool in the
GreenStage production of King Lear. Photo by Ken Holmes.
GreenStage is running King Lear, directed by Erin Day and featuring Vince Brady in the title role. Brady turns in a stunning and memorable performance as Lear, heart-rendingly depicting the aging ruler's flip-flops from monarch to mental case, from vengeful tyrant to doting dad. Brady is at home with Shakespeare's language, but it's also an intensely physical role. Apart from (spoiler alert!!) lugging the dead Cordelia at the end, he has to play the tics and twitches of age and infirmity, the strength of the king in his more lucid moments, physical hardship in the storm, and he's just on stage all the time. A truly marvelous performance; he's every inch a king.

The rest of the cast is grand as well. Sam Hagen is jaw-dropping in his portrayal of the Fool, truth-teller to the king. It's magical how Hagen makes the wise and hilarious simpleton utterly believable. Daniel Wood is amazing as Edgar and his undercover alter-ego, Poor Tom. Wood often winds up barely clothed in these things, as he did while wearing Superman underwear as Stephano in The Tempest two years ago. Lear is fabulous. Don't miss it!

(Full disclosure: Weisenheimer is marketing director for GreenStage, but it doesn't make me biased!)

David S. Hogan is commanding in the
title role of Wooden O's Henry V. Hogan
is pictured here with Annie Lareau as
Bardolph. Seattle Shakespeare Company
At the other end of the royal spectrum from the aged Lear is the young whippersnapper Henry V. Seattle Shakespeare Compnay's Wooden O is performing Henry this summer, directed by George Mount with David S. Hogan in the title role. Hogan rocks this great character, whether he's giving the Saint Crispian's day pep talk, whacking one of his old drinking buddies for stealing, or skulking among the common soldiery the night before the big battle. I especially enjoyed the great scene where he and Carolyn Marie Monroe, as Katherine, try to overcome the language barrier as they court in court at the end.

Henry had some great special effects, including a couple of explosions, one of which took down a wall of the fortress. Also, at one point during a battle the air cover flew overhead (yes, set in modern times!) and I was looking around for the real plane--jets often fly over Volunteer Park during the shows. The "sense-surround" really worked. Henry V included a strong supporting cast with many favorite actors. And Terri Weagant as Bishop of Ely? I confess!!

GreenStage also is reprising A Midsummer Night's Dream, the fourth time they've performed the popular Shakespeare comedy in their 25 years cavorting in Seattle-area parks. The silver-anniversary version, directed by Ken Michels, is great fun from start to finish. Gina Marie Russell and David Rollison are fantastic as Hippolyta/Titania and Theseus/Oberon and Taylor Davis enchants as Puck. I found the Rude Mechanicals to be especially hilarious. Led by Michael Ramquist as Peter Quince, the director of Pyramus and Thisbe reminded me a bit of Buddy Bizarre, and Ramquist said there may be a touch of Harold Hecuba in there as well. Danni Krehbiel is a hoot as Robin Starveling, and Luke Sayler a riot as Bottom.

Wooden O also is putting on The Tempest, directed by Kelly Kitchens, with Amy Thone in the role of Prospero. Thone is amazing, with a string of lead Shakespearean roles of late, including Cleopatra and Titus Andronicus. Kitchens took a bit of a different tack with Caliban than we usually see, with Brian D. Simmons playing the slave as a crew-cut, t-shirt-wearing, but gouged up human. It was an interesting way to go with the character. I loved the comic relief between Mike Dooly and Donna Wood as Stephano and Trinculo; as we left after the show we heard several patrons proclaim that "the drunk guy was really good!"

In this show Wooden O's effects did not work as well. They had trouble with the sound system and there was some background hum and feedback for a good part of the performance we saw, and with microphones all over the set, some of them delivered louder sound than others, which was a bit distracting. I hope they get those ironed out as the summer goes along.

The kings rule, but all four of these shows are worth a look. They're playing in parks all over the area through mid-August.

GreenStage calendar
Wooden O calendar

1 comment:

Sweetie the Official Scorer said...

I agree with the Weisenheimer! We had a great time. I couldn't figure out if some of the humming and noise in Tempest was intentional (what with all the text references to the humming and sounds of the island) or just speaker problems. In either event, the noise was sometimes distracting and sometimes competed with the actors. Otherwise, great show!