Onstage: The summer of our stage content
Photo courtesy of Shakespeare in Delaware Park
You know it’s summer in Buffalo when you can put an evening with Shakespeare in Delaware Park on your entertainment agenda. Grab a friend, a picnic basket, a beverage of choice, and enjoy the best of the Bard under the stars.
Now playing at the park is the challenging tragedy Richard III. In Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s (SDP) thirty-seven year history, the show has only been produced once before.
“In part, this has to do with the difficulty of casting the central role, but for me, Tim Newell is ideal for Richard,” says SDP artistic director Saul Elkin. “Tim is both a skilled character actor and a wonderful comic actor. These are qualities that are both present in the mordant wit of Richard, who is both a dangerous villain and an ‘actor’ who speaks to the audience and prepares us for his every plot as he removes those who stand between him and the throne.”
A Shakespeare veteran, Newell has appeared in Othello, Julius Caesar, and many other SDP productions. He also works frequently with the Jewish Repertory Theatre of WNY, where Elkin is artistic director.
Richard III is about “power,” Newell says. “The man stops at nothing to get what he wants, and does so without any remorse until the very end, after the ghosts of all he has slaughtered pay him a little visit. We then see how human he is, as well as vulnerable. I also think it’s a little about politics, and being a politician. He lies, and smiles while he lies. Timeless, really.”
Although the play is set in the fifteenth century, Elkin is producing the show in modern dress. “The language will not change, but Donna Massimo is designing the costumes so the look is that of [popular AMC series] Mad Men. The dog-eat-dog corporate world of advertising seemed the ideal image for this play,” Elkin says. “We will do the play as Shakespeare wrote it and invite the audience to make the connections the costumes will suggest.”
Directed by Elkin, Richard III also features Robert Rutland, Eileen Dugan, Lisa Vitrano, Kay Karimian, David Lundy, Adam Rath, and Larry Rowswell. Free performances continue through July 15 in Delaware Park.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Following Richard III is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “We frequently try to produce a balanced season—a comedy after a tragedy,” Elkin says. Shakespeare’s comedic fantasy details events around the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Characters include Oberon and Titania, the estranged king and queen of the fairies, the mischievous Puck, and the Mechanicals, an acting troupe.
“We are setting the play in what was British Honduras in the mid 1920s,” director Kyle LoConti says. “So we have the ‘royals,’ who are British, living in one of the last British colonies in the Americas; the ‘mechanicals,’ who are the native people of the region; and the ‘fairies,’ who have hints and whispers of the ancient Mayan. When thinking about the three worlds that come together in the play, I wanted to be somewhere that gave us a fairly unsophisticated working class, an antiquity with its own rich mythology, and a governing class that was structured and ruled by reason.”
LoConti is chair of the arts and media division at Niagara County Community College. The cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream includes Jonathan Shuey, Jessica Wegryzn, Adriano Gatto, Kate LoConti, Jeff Coyle, Greg Gjurich, and Matt Witten. Free performances begin July 26 in Delaware Park.
The original rock musical, Hair, begins July 5 at MusicalFare. Directed by Chris Kelly and choreographed by Bobby Cooke, who collaborated on MF’s creatively reconceived Oliver!, Hair will also receive a newly realized approach. More on this next month. (716-839-8540)
Cooke also choreographed Legally Blonde The Musical, which stars Amy Jakiel, daughter of local actors Steve Jakiel (Road Less Traveled’s Superior Donuts) and Mary McMahon. Directed by Christopher Parada, the Curtain Up Productions show also features Lisa Ludwig, John N. Kaczorowski, Bethany Burrows, Hannah Louise Sharp, and Mike Seitz. Legally Blonde The Musical runs July 12–22 at the Historic Palace Theatre in Lockport. (716-438-1130)
For more reviews and news about WNY theater, join Spree and Forever Young theater previewer Darwin McPherson on WKBW’s Eyewitness News This Morning.