‘Macbeth’

(L to R) Chaon Cross (Lady Macbeth) and Ian Merrill Peakes (Macbeth) watched by the Weird Sisters (McKinley carter, Emily Ann Nichelson and Theo Germaine) in 'Macbeth' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater's The Yard. (Photos by Liz Lauren)
(L to R) Chaon Cross (Lady Macbeth) and Ian Merrill Peakes (Macbeth) watched by the Weird Sisters (McKinley Carter, Emily Ann Nichelson and Theo Germaine) in ‘Macbeth’ at Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s The Yard. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

RECOMMENDED

Ah, the “Scottish play,” in all its gory allegorical ambition, madness and magic, closes the 2017-18 Chicago Shakespeare’s season.

Adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller, who did Chicago Shakes’ “Tempest”  production, their “Macbeth” proves a worthy vehicle for ghostly special effects and a bit of audience participation.

Maybe engaging the audience as the drunken porter (Matthew Floyd Miller) does immediately after the blood splotched Macbeth and Lady Macbeth appear following  the murder of Duncan (Christopher Donahue), offers welcome comic relief. This is the first time I have heard audiences laugh and converse with the Porter during “Macbeth.”

But then the play descends into the darkness of never-ending death as Ian Merrill Peakes as Macbeth finds that one murder has to lead to another and Chaon Cross as Lady Macbeth realizes their murderous ambition ends in madness. Cross’ sleeping-walking  “Out damn spot” scene declares her formidable talent.

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A sweet Shakespearean romantic comedy under the stars

RECOMMENDED

One of summer’s finest pursuits is viewing a William Shakespeare play while reposing under the stars and sipping a smooth wine.

First Folio Theatre affords that experience with a first-rate production of the Bard of Avon’s “As You Like It” on the grounds of the historic Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook.

Leslie Ann Sheppard (Rosalind), Courtney Abbott (Touchstone) and Vahishta Vafadari (Celia) is 'As You Like It' at First Folio. Maia Rosenfeld Photography
Leslie Ann Sheppard (Rosalind), Courtney Abbott (Touchstone) and Vahishta Vafadari (Celia) is ‘As You Like It’ at First Folio. Maia Rosenfeld Photography

The gently rolling hillside forms a natural amphitheater for the two-story wooden stage and for audiences to spread their blankets and pop their picnic baskets.

Directed by Skyler Schrempp, this delightful tale meanders among a tangle of storylines and a large cast. The plot weaves family feuds, banishments, mistaken identities, forgiveness and love triangles.

Most everyone finds themselves exiled in the lush Forest of Arden. That is, until truths are revealed and couples happily pair up in marriage like they typically do in Shakespearean rom-coms.

The highly polished cast numbers nearly two dozen, many of them First Folio returnees and almost all with previous Shakespearean credits on their resumes.

Leslie Ann Sheppard shows great flexibility in her dual-gendered role as Rosalind. At the onset, she is a favored and stylish family member of the royal court. After she is banished, she heads to the forest and adopts a male persona for safety reasons.

She is accompanied by her cousin and best friend Celia, played adroitly by Vahishta Vafadari who takes on the guise of a peasant. The young women venture a convoluted path to find their loves.

Courtney Abbott is charming and comedic as the mohawk-crowned, androgynous jester Touchstone.

Tempering the frolic is Kevin McKillip as Jacque, a melancholic lord. With great gravitas he delivers one of Shakespeare’s most well-known soliloquies, the one that begins with “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

Costume designer Mieka van der Ploeg advances the setting as ambiguously modern-day, yet-far-away with attire that borrows from vintage, punk and club-kid cultures.

Throw in a couple of fascinators, a pair of black-and-white wingtips, and a few dirndl skirts, and you get the feeling you’re somewhere else.

A summer evening at First Folio Theatre is as idyllic as the Forest of Arden. Arrive early to enjoy the natural landscape. The staff sets out citronella candles, but bring mosquito repellent.

DETAILS: “As You Like It” is at First Folio Theatre, Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st St., Oak Brook, through Aug. 20. For tickets and other information, call 630-986-8067 or visit First Folio.

— Pamela Dittmer McKuen

 

 

 

 

‘Julius Caesar’ zooms along in shortened version

RECOMMENDED

Writers Theatre’s production of ‘Julius Caesar’ begs the question – what do you want to take away from Shakespeare’s play about politics and power.

Kareem Bandealy (Brutus) l, and Scott Parkinson (Cassius) r. in Julius Caesar at Writers Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow
Kareem Bandealy (Brutus) l, and Scott Parkinson (Cassius) r. in Julius Caesar at Writers Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

If you want an overpowering sense that assassination of a powerful figure such as Julius Caesar could only call forth chaos whether in Rome or, more broadly, the world, then you will appreciate the WT’s technologically strong visual and sound effects.

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