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Review: In Jean Genet’s bleak existential drama “The Maids,” two young women, sisters and live-in house maids to the same mistress, secretly turn the tables in an ominous fantasy life about power and subservience. A noir study in delusional role-playing and its dark consequences, “The Maids” is on fascinating display at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis.. ★★★
Preview: It’s like seeing Shakespeare in the Forest of Arden, this bucolic Wisconsin festival that bears the name of American Players Theatre. Set in the rolling hills of Spring Green, just west of Madison, American Players has been producing stellar – literally star-covered – theater every summer since 1980. This summer APT juxtaposes Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” with Carlyle Brown’s “The African Company Presents Richard III.” Those timely spirits are already in flight, with many more plays to come. Here’s an overview.
This Just In: The following is from a news release written by an arts organization.
American Players Theatre announces 37th Summer Festival Season June 3 – October 16, 2016
Diverse lineup of eight classical and contemporary works
Return of …
Review: Rage, beyond expression or reason or appeasement, rips through the timeless modernity of “An Iliad,” the dramatic distillation of Homer’s epic by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare that now echoes against the near walls of an intimate space at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis. This fraught opus of glory and gore bristles in the one voice but many personas of Jim DeVita, playing the Poet who frames the perpetual folly of war in the single appalling, ever repeating travesty that was Troy. ★★★★★
Preview: As if running up a banner announcing its annexation of the New World – where, of course, it is located – the classically oriented American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis., opens its 2014 summer with a new commitment to Americana, leading off with no less bracing a representative than David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.”
Review: As summer turns into fall, it’s worth making time to catch Chicago actor Matthew Schwader as that restlessly inquisitive and acid wit, Hamlet, who comes magisterially unhinged in Shakespeare’s masterwork. “Hamlet” is enjoying a gloriously long reign at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, WI. ★★★★★
Review: She is a perfectly happy lady, Molly Sweeney. Though blind since early childhood, she’s content in her soul, and wondrously in touch with the world, which she views – through the tactile, auditory and aromatic senses – as very much hers. Then her husband and a once-celebrated eye surgeon convince her that an operation could open up unimagined vistas of bliss. That’s the harrowing thrust of Brian Friel’s intimate tragedy “Molly Sweeney,” delivered with equal parts of sensitivity and irony and shattering impact at American Players Theatre.. ★★★★
Preview: What’s in a name? American Players Theatre, which has been filling summers with drama since 1980 in the woods of Spring Green, Wis., doesn’t trade on the Shakespeare brand. But in every aspect of making theater, from staging to vocal delivery to its choice of plays, this ambitious enterprise hews to the Bard as its reference point. In the 2013 mix of eight plays, which opens June 15, APT includes a typical infusion of Shakespeare, a stylistic sweep from “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “Hamlet” to “Antony and Cleopatra.”
A snake in the palace. 4 stars!
Review: To use Shakespeare and farce in the same sentence is almost certainly to think of “The Comedy of Errors,” and maybe patches of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Probably not, however, the late romantic adventure tale “Pericles, Prince of Tyre.” But it is precisely a generous infusion of over-the-top silliness that makes such endearing stuff of “Pericles” at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis. ★★★★
Review: In a transcendent night under the stars in APT’s newly refurbished al fresco venue, the three-and-a-half-hour drive from Chicago to the theater, nestled in rolling hills about 30 miles west of Madison, was repaid amply by James Ridge’s complex embodiment of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. Here is Cyrano in his full flesh and spirit: lyric poet, matchless swordsman and, above all else, unrequited lover, a man whose many gifts stitched together cannot veil the defeating protuberance that is his formidable nose. ★★★★★
Preview: At the outset of its 38th season, American Players Theatre has the look of a company starting afresh. Its 2017 summer at Spring Green, Wis., about 30 miles west of Madison, opens on a brand-new stage, the centerpiece of an $8 million renovation of both production and public facilities. “Our theater was literally falling down,” says APT artistic director Brenda DeVita. “This renewal has given us, and our audience, a theater that is better is so many ways.”
Review: You can’t blame an audience for lapping it up: Skilled and familiar actors playing beloved characters in a story so cherished that everyone can pretty much recite along. But that doesn’t necessarily make for memorable theater. Witness the American Players Theatre stage version of Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice” at Spring Green, Wis. ★★★
Review: If the delight of Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” lies in the sparring between that fat, delusional romantic Sir John Falstaff and a raft of characters determined to rub his nose in reality, this broad comedy ultimately hangs on two hooks, and the rollicking production at American Players Theatre delivers them both at Spring Green, Wis. ★★★★
Review: She is a fascinating character, indeed one of the iconic personas in all of theater, Blanche DuBois, the fallen Southern belle of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” The undying question is, Why? What’s so intriguing about this dame with the checkered past? Perhaps it’s her vulnerability, or her delusion, or her sheer refusal to go quietly into middle-aged oblivion. I think that’s the thing, her feisty pluck, that makes Tracy Michelle Arnold’s Blanche so compelling at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis. ★★★★★
Preview: In her second summer as artistic director of American Players Theatre, Brenda Devita can claim her fingerprints alone on the scheme of eight widely ranging plays that will run in repertory well into the autumn. And DeVita embraces that authorship with pride, starting with the company’s first go at Tennessee Williams’ monumental tragedy “A Streetcar Named Desire.” “We’re taking it outdoors,” she says, referring to the starry-domed 1,148-seat Up-the-Hill Theatre.
Review: Perhaps it’s because theater companies and audiences have always taken to heart Oscar Wilde’s subtitle for “The Importance of Being Earnest” that this silly, precious comedy of manners has remained a repertory fixture since its premiere in the Victorian world of 1895. Wilde slyly dubbed his play “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,” and its triviality is indeed embraced seriously in this summer’s amusing romp at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis. ★★★★
Review: Care as we may for the oft love-struck young swain in Shakespeare’s great tragedy “Romeo and Juliet,” it is Juliet whose desperate predicament holds our hearts in thrall. A successful staging requires, above all else, an irresistible Juliet, radiant indeed as the eastern sun, and American Players Theatre’s affecting summer run boasts just such a blazing star in Melisa Pereyra. ★★★★
Review: As if to signal rebirth at the outset of its 35th season, American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis., under new artistic director Brenda DeVita, has widened its scope beyond classic European fare to include the masterpieces of American theater. It could scarcely have dived more boldly into that pool, or more artfully, than with its sharp-edged and idiomatic production of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.” ★★★★★
Review: Traditional criticism hasn’t been altogether kind to Shakespeare’s early comedy “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” which is often portrayed as a workshop effort that set the stage for the Bard’s later, more sophisticated riffs on the madness of love. But this summer’s sharply drawn, energetic and sly production at American Players Theatre makes a savvy, satisfying case for a comedy worth catching. ★★★★
Maestro at the Royal George. 3 stars
Interview: Cristina Panfilio, the disarmingly sly and funny – and athletic! – Puck in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at American Players Theatre, didn’t see it coming. The role of the mischievous fairy sprite with magical powers is normally played by a male actor. When director John Langs phoned her and cold-pitched her the part, she was flattered, of course. The Chicago-based actress was also overwhelmed by the thought.
Review: Is there a better way to fall under the spell of Shakespeare than through “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”? Not if it’s the current production under the stars by American Players Theatre, which will get the job done for ages 7 to 97 at the least. The company is but an afternoon’s drive from Chicago into the Wisconsin woods near Madison, and the actors – more than a few of them based in Chicago – are uniformly proficient at finding the human warmth in Shakespeare’s comedy and making it clear in minute detail. ★★★★★
Interview: Tracy Michelle Arnold, who portrays a feisty and resourceful Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” at American Players Theatre, doesn’t buy the common perception of this embattled woman as “a crazy person.” Arnold sees Blanche as a scarred fighter who never gives up her struggle to survive, even at the end.
Interview: He’s the very devil in the guise of a cherub, this smiling and murderous Richard III embodied by James Ridge in the American Players Theatre production of Shakespeare’s royal tragedy. Ridge’s duplicitous Richard echoes Lady Macbeth’s cold counsel to Macbeth in his own bloody quest for a crown: “Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.”
Review: Covent Garden’s greatest tragedian has collapsed in the midst of his 1833 “Othello” run, requiring the theater to swap in a substitute for the traditional blackface role of the Moorish general who commits a crime of passion against his fair-skinned wife. Perhaps London might delight in the novelty of a 25-year-old “African” actor to save the day. Dion Johnstone stars in this emotionally charged drama – based on an actual event – by British playwright Lolita Chakrabarti, who likes her humor dry. ★★★★
Interview: Actress Kathleen Ruhl loves to hear an audience laugh. It’s always been one of the joys of her long stage career. Naturally, in her role as the flinty, straight-talking mom to two adult children in Suzanne Heathcote’s “I Saw My Neighbor on the Train and I Didn’t Even Smile” at Redtwist Theatre, she savors the laughter that rings off those close walls. But for Ruhl, the mirth came in a bitter pill.
Interview: Volumes have been written about Emily Dickinson, but it was through the reclusive poet’s own words that Kate Fry found her way into the heart she illuminates in William Luce’s one-woman play “The Belle of Amherst” at Court Theatre. “In the poems, and in her letters, you get these clear images of what was speaking to her intellect on any given day,” says Fry, “the things she felt compelled to put down on paper.”
Interview: Joel Reitsma creates a convincingly distressed investment banker who parlays his expertise into a desperate, life-preserving deal with his Pakistani captors in Ayad Akhtar’s “The Invisible Hand” at Steep Theatre. But Reitsma admits up front that he knows little about the trading game; and besides, he’s quick to add, the play isn’t about the stock market anyway. It’s about the corrosive power of money.
Interview: Lawrence Grimm stands 6 feet 4 inches tall – the same height as Abraham Lincoln. It wasn’t height that worried the actor when he took on his nuanced and profoundly human portrayal of Lincoln in James Still’s “The Heavens Are Hung in Black” at Shattered Globe Theatre. What concerned Grimm were the iconic dimensions of the 16th president, the towering figure whose wisdom would guide the nation through its greatest crisis.