I cannot let pass the 400th anniversary of the death of that supreme monarch of dramatic literature: Shakespeare. Since the Vivian Beaumont Theater opened its doors, in 1965, it has housed 10 productions of the writer – Cymbeline, Henry IV, The Comedy of Errors, Hamlet, and two stagings each of King Lear, Twelfth Night, and Macbeth. In other words, the Beaumont has welcomed all the most frequently produced plays with two exceptions: Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Among the 51 actors in the Beaumont’s current show, The King and I, you will find little sign of Shakespeare in their program bios. Yet when I randomly sampled a few of the actors backstage I discovered that all of them had appeared in Shakespeare in high school, college, or drama academy. What’s more, several had performed in musicals based on Shakespeare – Kiss Me, Kate and West Side Story. I could find no one, alas, who had done The Boys from Syracuse, which Richard Rodgers wrote with Lorenz Hart and which is based on The Comedy of Errors.
The program bios of The Royale cast, currently in LCT’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, brim with the Bard. McKinley Belcher III lists Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and Macbeth 1969, which updated the Scottish play. Montego Glover has played Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Anita in West Side Story. John Lavelle’s interest in Shakespeare (appearances in Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like, and The Merchant of Venice) is almost as keen as his affection for the New York Mets. (That’s a whole blog entry in itself.)
Khris Davis, another Royale actor, lists Othello among his credits. Clarke Peters, the fifth and final actor in the Newhouse show, does not include that credit, though he has certainly had a go at the Moor. In a Playbill.com enumeration of some of his favorite recent stage performances, Peters listed Hugh Quarshie, who played the part last year for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Peters commented: “Hugh has a way with words, and his Othello was not applauded enough. His critical understanding of the text made his delivery of it accessible to a newcomer’s ears. For me, by far the best Othello I’ve seen. Mind you, I didn’t see my Othello. Ha ha ha.”
Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com.