Tag Archive: Shakespeare

​Thorns of the Crown, Choreographed and Staged by Ramon Oller

Ramon Oller's Thorns of the Crown, after Shakespeare

The phrase “less is more,” attributed to many sources, is very appropriate for Thorns of the Crown. The dance is vaguely about royal power—wanting it, getting it, losing it. This is a strong theme but the piece is a potpourri of steps, sounds, ideas, music and musical styles and would be stronger had it focused on fewer. Sounds include clashing swords and whinnying horses with snatches of spoken Shakespeare including Macbeth and Hamlet, with “To Be or Not to Be” voiced by Kenneth Branagh. Music runs the gamut from quasi- (or perhaps genuine) ecclesiastical to medieval selections to pipes and flutes to a blend of original compositions by composers Thomas Lentakis and Bruno Axel with too-abrupt shifts that are jolting.

King Charles III – A future history play by Mike Bartlett, Music Box Theatre, New York (11/01/2015 – 1/31/2016)

Tim Pigott-Smith as King Charles III. Photo © Joan Marcus.

When Mike Bartlett conceived the idea for this play, according to an article he wrote about it in The Guardian, his thoughts centered on the figure of Prince Charles at “the moment Charles takes the throne, and how his conscience would lead him to refuse to sign a bill into law. An epic royal family drama, dealing with power and national constitution, was the content, and therefore the form had surely to be Shakespearean.” He was not approaching it with any particular ideas about monarchy, or the royal family, or the state of Britain. He was thinking, not as a political creature or a satirist, but as a playwright. From this mindset, it immediately occurred to him that the form had to be Shakespearean, down to the blank verse—and this terrified him, because he had virtually no experience with the meter, or with any verse.

Something Rotten at the St. James Theatre

Bryan d'Arcy James and Christian Borie in Something Rotten. Photo © 2015 Joan Marcus.

You’ll get a kick out of Something Rotten if you brush up your Shakespeare once you decide whether you want to be or not to be in attendance. If you get what’s going on in the previous sentences, then Something Rotten may be a show for you. It is packed with inside jokes — Shakespearean jokes, musical theatre jokes, gay jokes, feminist jokes, Jewish jokes, Puritan jokes, rock star jokes, star-crossed lover jokes and some just plain jokes. More than any show in recent memory your enjoyment of Something Rotten depends on where you’re coming from.

A Shakespeare Double-Bill at the American Ballet Theater: Ashton’s The Dream and Ratmansky’s The Tempest

American Ballet Theatre in "The Dream." Photo Gene Schiavone.

ABT’s The Dream is highly poetic, romantic and vaguely Victorian. It differs from the version presented by the New York City Ballet in that it is only one act and has a somewhat different story line as well as highly contrasting choreography. (I confess to a preference for the NYCB version, but so be it.) Herman Cornejo was unquestionably the star of the performance, a magical, energetic Puck whose leaps are astounding. He spins so brilliantly I couldn’t tell how many rounds he made; took to the air as though truly born an elfin sprite and displayed a keen a sense of humor. Oberon was danced by Cory Sterns in place of the injured David Hallberg. In one charming moment, Oberon partnered Puck; when the sprite leapt into his master’s arms, the audience let loose a collective chuckle. This Oberon, regal and compelling, does some of his own dirty work, sprinkling the love charm into Titania’s eyes so that when she awakens she is entranced by Bottom, complete with ass’s head, and danced with panache by Blaine Hoven.

Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Balanchine’s choreography at the New York City Ballet with Karinska’s Costumes Restored

Sean Suozzi as Puck in NYCB's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo Paul Kolnik.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream deals with totally unrealistic events including crossed lovers, magic spells, and meaningless arguments. The performance by the New York City Ballet with Balanchine’s original choreography integrates broad comedy with magnificent dance for a hugely satisfying evening.


Royal Shakespeare Company’s Richard II in London

David Tennant as Richard II. Photo by Kwame Lestrade.

Being a little out of touch with mainstream movies and TV nowadays, I came to the RSC’s new production of Richard II without the usual expectations associated with a famous face (from the screen) in the lead, and this feels like an advantage to me. It is easier to enjoy a play expecting a rounder cast, or indeed expecting nothing in the way of faces and mannerisms. I had forgotten about the new Doctor Whos and that David Tennant had been one, and avoided the Harry Potter films, so the squeals and the mad applause were a surprise. But even so, in reality, it was a balanced cast, and fame doesn’t mean a thing, especially to Shakespeare.

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