Virginia Shakespeare Festival kicks off its 31st season| June 25, 2009
The Virginia Shakespeare Festival, with William & Mary Theatre Professor Christopher Owens serving as its producing artistic director, kicked off its 31st season at Phi Beta Kappa Hall last night. This year's season includes three smash hits and a professional company recruited from all over the country.
"Much Ado About Nothing," one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies, opened on June 24. Directed by Steven Breese, (who gave us VSF's stunning "Romeo and Juliet"), the play revolves around the sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick. From the beginning, it is obvious to everyone but the couple that they are truly meant for each other. Delightful tricks and surprises ensue as the characters attempt to get Beatrice and Benedick to stop arguing and fall in love. Featuring one of the Bard's most beloved clowns, Constable Dogberry, Breese is setting the production in the romantic Italian countryside just at the beginning of World War I. J. David Blatt (who designed VSF's "Tempest" and "Macbeth" sets), creates an exquisitely pastoral sense to this piece-treating us to an exciting three-dimensional set composed of pieces that flow cinematically across the stage throughout the evening-including a Tuscan Villa and a biplane to transport our swaggering WW I "flyboys." Filled with music and dancing, including a colorful Masquerade Tango, "Much Ado About Nothing" runs until July 5.
Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale," the second production of the season, directed by Owens, plays July 9-19. Setting the play during the King Arthur era of the 12th Century, it has the grandness and fairytale quality of Camelot. It is romance with a happy ending-which happens through magic. We travel from ancient Sicily to lush, green Bohemia in this storybook tale of a jealous king, his wrongfully accused queen, and a magical statue. Featuring exuberant folk dancing and original music composed by Gary Green, we celebrate Camelot's "lusty month of May" and the glory of nature in the Bard's most beautiful romance that reminds us that miracles really do happen.
The final production of the season will be "Art," written by French playwright Yasmina Reza, winner of this year's Tony Award for "God of Carnage," and also directed by Owens. An international hit, in 1998, it received both London's Olivier Award for Best Comedy and a Tony Award for Best Play. The play focuses on three friends-Serge, Marc, and Yvan-one of whom buys a very expensive painting consisting of white lines on a white canvas. Owens approaches the play in the style of a 1940's "screwball comedy"-with the feeling of a Kaufmann and Hart production. Filled with philosophical debates and enormous humor, at its core, the play explores the complexities and the price, not of art-but of friendship. Art plays from July 23 through Aug. 2.
The box office for the Virginia Shakespeare Festival is located in Phi Beta Kappa Hall, at 601 Jamestown Road in Williamsburg. It is open Tuesdays - Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. It is closed on Mondays.
Tickets are $23. A season subscription for all three plays is $51. Student tickets are $12. Special group rates are available. For more information, call (757) 221 - 2674. Tickets may also be purchased via the festival Web site.