One of the delights of summer in New England is the abundance of outdoor Shakespeare plays. This past weekend I enjoyed three of them! Friday evening Jean and I saw “Midsummer Night’s Dream” performed by the Mixed Magic Theatre at the Town Landing, Pawtucket. The setting in a park on the banks of the Blackstone River was perfect, with set design by the architect, Morris Nathanson. The ethnically diverse acting company put on one of the best interpretations of the play I have seen anywhere, including the West End of London. The new director, Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, did a great job. The performances will continue the next two weekends in Narragansett and Bristol, R.I.
On Saturday evening the weather was perfect for the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s production of “Othello” on Boston Common. I squeezed my chair in the front section to avoid the annoyance of people walking across my vision, and had an excellent view. The sound system is turned up a little too loud for my liking, but there was certainly no problem hearing every word. The actors playing Othello (Seth Gilliam), Desdemona (Marianna Bassham), and Iago (James Waterston) were all very effective, without being superb. Othello is a difficult role to play, because he loses audience sympathy, soon after he allows jealousy to rule his passions. Harold Bloom is persuasive in his argument that Othello’s rage originates in his own inability to consummate his marriage with Desdemona, but that is rarely portrayed in stage productions, including this one. Iago is a brilliant study in pure evil, and strangely most of the humor in the play comes from his two-faced rejoinders. An audience always appreciates a thoroughgoing villain! The production continues on the Common through August 15.
On Sunday afternoon we went to Borderland State Park with some friends for a performance of the great comic love story, “Much Ado About Nothing”, by a new acting company, the Striving Artists Theatre Group. The setting was pretty behind the Ames Mansion, and I appreciated the shade of the big oak tree. The company did not have the professionalism of the other two that I have described above, but they made up in terms of enthusiasm and sense of fun. I thorougly enjoyed the show, and saw and heard new things once again in Shakespeare’s poetry. The story was set at Messina High School, which gave an interesting twist.