Tag Archives: Shakespeare

A Game To Be Played

Brad Stephens has accepted an offer to perform in Stolen Shakespeare Guild’s upcoming production of Hay Fever.  The Noël Coward comedy will be directed by Steven Lindsay and Allen Walker.  The show will run April 1–10, 2011 at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center in the Sanders Theatre.

This classic comedy is set in the 1920’s at the country home of the eccentric Bliss family – Judith, a recently retired stage actress; David, a self-absorbed novelist; and their two equally bohemian children, all of whom live in their own world where the boundaries between reality and fiction are extremely blurred. Upon entering this domain, their unsuspecting weekend guests are repeatedly thrown into wildly melodramatic situations by their hosts. The resulting pandemonium is a joy to witness.

Accepting the role of Sandy Tyrell, Stephens will make his second appearance at Stolen Shakespeare Guild having performed as Benedick in the company’s critically acclaimed production of Much Ado About Nothing last year.  He reunites with former cast-mates Lindsay (All My Sons), Walker and Arlette Morgan (Much Ado About Nothing).  “I’m delighted to be collaborating again with such wonderful talent,” he said.

Rehearsals are slated to begin later this month.  For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.stolenshakespeareguild.org.

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Review: “A Kind of Merry War”

Today, Theater Jones posted their review of Much Ado About Nothing performing in the Sanders Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center through February 21st.  Without any further ado, here is the review:

A Kind of Merry War

The Bard’s screwball comedy delivers a lot of something at Stolen Shakespeare Guild.

by M. Lance Lusk.  Published Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s crowd-pleaser about love and frivolity, is one of the most performed plays in the canon. Its bite-sized length and lively subject matter go down as sweetly and insubstantially as a chocolate bonbon. It is probably no coincidence that Stolen Shakespeare Guild‘s production opened on Valentine’s weekend.

The main plot follows the romance of the young lovers, Claudio (Michael Kreitzinger) and Hero (Samantha Chancellor). The victorious soldier Claudio is celebrating with his comrades in Sicily and his thoughts soon turn to wooing the governor’s daughter Hero. The more entertaining and interesting subplot involves the “skirmish of wit” between Benedick (Brad Stephens) and Beatrice (Arlette Morgan). Benedick, the avowed bachelor, and Beatrice, the quick-witted and sharp-tongued governor’s niece, relish the good-natured bickering in which they constantly engage. Wackiness ensues when their friends conspire to make them believe they secretly love one another. Further action follows the machinations of an evil, bastard brother who tries to thwart the love between Claudio and Hero, plus some bumbling comedic riffs from the local constable and his men.

A delicate balance is required for this play to become more than just an airy, romantic farce. The darker edges of the storyline involving the malicious plotting and accusations of infidelity and jealousy have to be strongly pushed and fleshed out to make the redemptive conclusion of the play satisfying. Even Shakespeare felt the need to insert one of his requisite fake deaths to salt the overly sweet nature of the story. Unfortunately, most productions settle for making the play a pageant of harmless, amorous bantering wrapped up in the pretty bow of a modern rom-com’s sensibilities, all kiss and no bite.

Directors Jason and Lauren Morgan’s traditional, down-the-middle interpretation creates a lively romp that has many more hits than misses, the sluggish opening section and some weak characterizations being the only major obstacles.

Shakespeare could have named the play Beatrice and Benedick, because the many-splendored facets of the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice drive the play, essentially making or breaking its success. It is critical that their repartee be quick, clever and with a strong undercurrent of feeling, whether they are at odds, falling in love or protesting too much their mutual adoration. Actor Brad Stephens’ Benedick proves himself more than capable of playing the clever cad with understanding and energy. Shakespeare gives Benedick some of his best zingers, and Stephens delivers them all with twinkling aplomb.

The role of Beatrice is a much more difficult endeavor. She has to give as good as she gets back to Benedick, guard her fragile heart, convincingly fall in love with her “enemy” and provide the moral outrage at her cousin and her own gender done wrong. It is a precarious juggling act, and, alas, one that Arlette Morgan struggles with a bit. Morgan seems to put too much credence in Beatrice’s pronouncement that she speaks “all mirth and no matter.” The audience sees only Beatrice’s bitter, sarcastic façade, rarely her humanity, and, frankly, would have a difficult time believing that she could love Benedick and convince him to love her in return. The lack of sincerity in this performance even results in the audience’s responding with inappropriate laughter to Beatrice’s heart-wrenching request of Benedick to kill her cousin’s accuser.

The affably clueless constable Dogberry is Shakespeare’s comic relief par excellence in this play, a can’t-miss, gut-busting role for most audiences to enjoy. Robert Krecklow strangely plays him a bit too refined and mostly sedate in the beginning, but he saves his best chops for his last scenes. Tarun Kapoor’s Don John is aptly menacing and haughty. Kreitzinger as Claudio portrays the wide-eyed lover with a range of impressive emotion and comedic instinct. A special kudos for Allen Walker’s portrayal as the doting father governor, Leonato. Walker infuses this supporting role with sincere geniality and deep pathos.

The look of the production and Lauren Morgan’s costumes evoke a pleasant, sun-kissed Renaissance Italy with stucco villas, shuttered windows and a bucolic farm cart. The uncluttered simplicity of the set and its design work quite well here, never detracting from the action or language of the play. Christine Hand Jones’ live, original music and subsequent musical performance in the role of Balthasar is poignant, appropriate and worthy of note.

The directors’ interpretation is a simple and conventional one, which is refreshing and appreciated at a time when too many directors constantly try to jazz up Shakespeare with offbeat settings, outlandish costumes and contemporary music. The beginning of the play does have some issues with slow timing, where a fury of words is required to set the pace. A rapid-fire pace is vital in screwball comedy, especially one involving a war between the sexes. The proper stride is found when the matchmaking between Beatrice and Benedick commences, and continues nicely for the remainder of the show.

Much Ado About Nothing represents Shakespeare’s last purely “witty” play, before he moved on to much darker, colder fare such as Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and the like. Stolen Shakespeare Guild allows the audience to experience the wit and wonder of this play, while transporting them to the sunnier climes of Sicily for a few hours.

Tickets on sale now through Theatre Mania (866-811-4111), by going to the Stolen Shakespeare Guild website or at the Box Office starting one hour before any performance.

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Review: “Much Ado About Something Great”

Stolen Shakespeare Guild is Much Ado about something great

by Punch Shaw, Special to the Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH — In our efforts to show Shakespeare’s works the respect they deserve, we may sometimes be guilty of the overstating the case.

We tend to isolate his plays in their own festivals, update them with garishly elaborate productions and place them on a pedestal so they might look down their noses at lesser works.

So thank goodness for the Stolen Shakespeare Guild and its presentations of the Bard’s works that remind us as that these are just great, entertaining plays that stand on their own without the aid of an adoring context, star actors or grandiose production values.

All it takes to do Shakespeare well is a capable director and cast who love and understand the texts, as is the case with the company’s current production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Sanders Theatre in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.

This romantic comedy, which makes merry with parallel plot lines about love’s labors getting twisted by confusion, is well-played by a sprawling cast whose members all seem to know what is really going on (not something that can always be taken for granted with Shakespeare). The direction, credited to Jason Morgan with Lauren Morgan, deserves kudos for maintaining a brisk pace, making good use of the minimal set and props, and keeping the many players singing in the same key.

The standout performance in this production is found in a surprising place. Allen Walker, as Leonato (the father of Hero, one of the female love interests) makes a minor role major by being casual and offhanded when appropriate, but also finding fire and thunder when it is needed.

Walker is a key part of a moment in the second act, where this production peaks. Until this point, all has been sweetness and light. But when Hero (Samantha Chancellor) is falsely accused of betraying her fiance, things take a darker turn. And Walker, Chancellor and J King (the very perceptive Friar Francis) join forces to make the scene absolutely riveting.

You will walk out of the theatre in the glow of having just spent a couple of hours with Shakespeare’s wonderful poetry and the broad range of human emotions he lays bare in those lines. And, when it comes to theater, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Much Ado About Nothing performs in the Sanders Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center through February 21st.  Tickets on sale now through Theatre Mania (866-811-4111), by going to the Stolen Shakespeare Guild website or at the Box Office starting one hour before any performance.

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Endure My Lady Tongue

Beatrice (Arlette Morgan) & Benedick (Brad Stephens)Next week, the Stolen Shakespeare Guild opens its 2010 season with Much Ado About Nothing on Friday, February 12, 2010 at 8 PM.  Directed by Jason Morgan, the play will perform in the Sanders Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center and run through February 21st.  One of Shakespeare’s finest comedies performed by a wonderful cast, it is sure to charm audiences. 

A pair of lovers, Claudio and Hero, are due to be married in a week. To pass the time before their wedding day, they conspire with Don Pedro, the prince of Aragon, to trick their friends, Beatrice and Benedick, into confessing their love for one another. The prince’s illegitimate brother, Don John, however, jealous of both Don Pedro’s power and his affection for Claudio, plans to destroy the coming wedding. 

I have the pleasure of sharing the stage with my wife, Arlette Morgan, who will be Beatrice to my Benedick.  I invite all who read this blog to come out and join us.  Think of it as spending an evening in our home.  Only, you know, with culture. 

Click here for a complete cast list with bios.  Performance schedule is as follows:

  • February 12, 2010 – 8 PM Friday (Opening night)
  • February 13, 2010 – 2 PM Saturday matinee
  • February 13, 2010 – 8 PM Saturday evening
  • February 19, 2010 – 8 PM Friday
  • February 20, 2010 – 8 PM Saturday
  • February 21, 2010 – 2 PM Sunday matinee (Closing)

Tickets on sale now through Theatre Mania (866-811-4111), by going to the Stolen Shakespeare Guild website or at the Box Office starting one hour before any performance.

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I’m Sleeping with Satan

Arlette MorganAlthough Arlette Morgan is part of a cast of fourteen undoubtably gifted performers, I simply cannot help but single her out as exceptional.  She is remarkably talented, preternaturally beautiful and the warmest of souls.  And the most amazing and joy-inducing fact about Arlette for me is this — she is my wife.

So I look forward with great delight to seeing her perform this weekend in Stolen Shakespeare Guild’s From the Beginning to the Nativity running at the Fort Worth Arts Center.  Despite the organization’s name, this will not be a production of one of the Bard’s works; rather, it is a medieval mystery play.  What is a medieval mystery play?  Glad you asked!

Medieval mystery plays began in the 10th century as serious church performances and developed into colorful and theatrical spectacles involving the whole community. Our concept for this show borrows from both the ancient and the modern. We have chosen to perform these plays as Shakespeare might have seen them as a boy, with Elizabethan costumes and settings, but with a contemporary holiday twist. We hope that these plays will be as silly and as moving as they were hundreds of years ago.

Plays being presented are The Creation, Noahʼs Flood, The Procession of Prophets, Josephʼs Trouble About Mary, The Salutation of Elizabeth, The Offering of the Magi, The Flight into Egypt, The Slaughter of the Innocents, and The Purification of Mary.

— from a Stolen Shakespeare Guild press release

Arlette will be portraying a number of personas in this production, the most notable being that of Lucifer — that highest of created beings who grew prideful, rebelled against God and became Satan.  Hence the title of this post.  I have to make this clarification lest she go medieval on my ass.Stolen Shakespeare Guild

If you enjoy the opportunity to see a true professional actress practice her craft, then I highly reccommend you come out and see Arlette’s show.  Tickets can be purchased online at www.stolenshakespeareguild.com, by calling Theater Mania at 1-866-811-4111, or you can buy your tickets at the box office starting one hour before show time.

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