December has been Shakespeare theater month for us it seems; we saw three plays: Pericles, Richard III and Twelfth Night.
Pericles, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s last show of its season, tells the story of a prince seeking justice, a home, and love. Its vivid costumes, dances and sword fights evoke a Mediterranean setting. If you’re in the area, the show runs through Dec. 29th.
Shakespeare on Broadway is having its own resurgence; there have been several productions of Macbeth running simultaneously, which we didn’t see, opting instead for the acclaimed transports from London’s Globe Theatre Company of Richard III and Twelfth Night. These shows, featuring all male casts lead by actor Mark Rylance, feature period dress, candlelit stages, and authentic music to replicate how the plays would have been performed when they were written.
Though we’ve seen these plays before, it was well worth seeing them again.
I love seeing different interpretations, seeing how the play can be set in different time periods and places than originally intended yet the words remain original. I like knowing some lines, and the expectation of hearing them delivered different ways.
Who doesn’t remember these famous lines from Richard III: “Now is the winter of our discontent …” and “A horse! a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”
Or “If music be the food of love, play on” from Twelfth Night.
Each performance I hear another line that resonates and usually dig up my college “complete plays” later that evening to reread bits of the play. And the plots? Many seem as if they were created based on today’s newspaper headlines; all the themes that make us human appear in these 400+ year old treasures.
In these productions, the actors get dressed on stage, giving the audience a chance to witness the many layers of clothing – most the actors had assistance from costume crew; some had items sewn onto them. The men playing women wore white makeup and red lipstick, and the dress bodices were pushed up against their chests in ways to create cleavage.
On stage in New York City through mid-February. Not to be missed.
(Title borrowed from Cole Porter’s “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from Kiss Me Kate, the musical version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.