Bard on the Beach’s 2015 Season: Reviewed

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This was an inventive and fast paced season for Bard on the Beach. With three comical, crafty plays and one major drama they were certainly off to a good start.

My experience of the season began with a steampunk Comedy of Errors. For such a convoluted play, this was the perfect vessel. The constantly moving set, outlandish costumes, and strange performances easily heightened the absurdity. It’s full of slapstick humour and silly moments, with lots of space for the embellishments that director Scott Bellis used so well. Although not one of Shakespeare’s finest works it was a good start to the season, especially for actors Sereana Malani (Adriana) and Ben Elliott (Antipholus of Syracuse). Malani captured my attention every time she was on stage. Elliott, who has proved himself musically in many other Bard plays, was uproariously funny as the confused newcomer.

King Lear was the second main stage production, and it largely fell flat. This is a massive production to put on but the script can be cumbersome to do without losing audience attention, and unfortunately for some it did just that. At the start, Benedict Campbell fell into the problem of overemphasizing every line, but by the second act he seemed passive and afraid of the madness and anger required of him. The sisters (Jennifer Lines, Regan and Colleen Wheeler, Goneril) kept too many of their Tempest mannerisms for this much more serious play, getting laughs in a play that should not provide them. Michael Blake (Edmund) and Nathan Schmidt (Edgar) had some of the most interesting moments, each providing thoroughly nuanced portraits of their characters.

On the Howard Family Stage, Love’s Labour’s Lost took us on a rollicking, musical 1920s adventure that hit the jazz classics and easily express the character’s emotions. Chicago in the Roaring Twenties bring brilliant costumes and the speakeasy vibe that pairs well with Ben Elliot’s musical direction. Josh Epstein (Berowne) stands out as the king’s friend and lover of Rosaline. His voice is beautifully rich and his emotions are immediately evident. The slight audience interaction is both funny and complementary to the 20’s style, as this play is more an adaptation than a direct reproduction of Shakespeare’s creation.

King Lear’s actors took to the Howard Family Stage for C.C. Humphries novel Shakespeare’s Rebel. Set in Elizabethan London around Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and a potential revolution, John Lawley (Benedict Campbell) must separate himself from his past on the battlefield, help his friend William Shakespeare to write the play Hamlet, and clean himself up to win back his beloved Tess and son Ned. With so many pots and subplots throughout, it was amazing to see this novel put together so masterfully on stage. Although I found Campbell too overwhelming as King Lear, he seemed to find his footing in this production. This is where Jennifer Lines (Tess) and Colleen Wheeler (Queen Elizabeth) shine. Lines is feisty and smart, a clear choice for Lawley to pursue, while Wheeler masters the drama of Elizabeth as I hoped she would have in King Lear. The Bard’s own Christopher Gaze has directed a veritable star for the 2015 season, engaging and funny without overwhelming audiences who are used to Shakespeare’s own writings.

Both of the smaller stage performances were my favourite for the year, drawing my attention back again and again.

Bard on the Beach Opens the Howard Family Stage with Love’s Labour’s Lost

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Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival continues its 26th season with a musical adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost. The play will run Tuesdays through Sundays from June 19 to September 20 on the Howard Family Stage, in the 270-seat Douglas Campbell Theatre Tent in Vanier Park.

It’s Chicago in the 1920s and Ferdinand, “The King” (Jay Hindle) controls the illegal liquor and gambling trade on Chicago’s South Side. He has decided to give up all vice (especially women) and turn his popular speakeasy, Navarre, into a scholarly retreat for three years. His two friends, Berowne (Josh Epstein) and Dumain (Daniel Doheny) agree to swear an oath to give up vice as well. The three men amuse themselves by enjoying the antics of Don Armato (Andrew McNee), Ferdinand’s Italian house guest, and Costard (Andrew Cownden), the resident comedian. Don Armato has fallen in love with Jaquenetta (Dawn Petten), a flapper at Navarre, and is distressed when he and his page Moth (Lili Beaudoin) find her alone with Costard. Ferdinand’s scholarly resolve is put to the test when his arch-rival’s daughter, Princess (Lindsey Angell), arrives at Navarre with Rosaline (Luisa Jojic) and Katherine (Sereana Malani), two of her closest friends. Ferdinand, Berowne and Dumain immediately fall in love with the women, but conceal their feelings because of their oath. When Berowne has Costard deliver a love letter to Rosaline, his feelings for her are revealed. It is not long before the three friends concoct a plan to pursue the ladies. Meanwhile, Princess and her friends learn of the men’s intentions and decide to have some fun of their own. Holofernes (Ben Elliott), Boyet (Anna Galvin) and Dull (Jeff Gladstone) also join the cast in this rip-roaring world of speakeasies and jazz. The party is in full swing!

 

Marshall McMahen brings the realm of gangsters and secret jazz halls to life with his scenic design, paired with Rebekka Sɸrensen-Kjelstrup’s rich, detailed costumes and Adrian Muir’s lighting design. The lively period is highlighted through Valerie Easton’s choreography and with fight direction from Nicholas Harrison. Under Ben Elliott’s musical direction, members of the Company perform jazz favourites in a live onstage band. Daryl Cloran, Artistic Director of Western Canada Theatre, makes his directorial debut at Bard this summer with his unique interpretation of the play, with the help of Apprentice Director Melissa Oei.

 

Performance details for Love’s Labour’s Lost are as follows:
• Previews: June 19, 20, 24, 25; OPENING NIGHT: Friday, June 26 at 7:30pm
• Runs Tuesdays through Sundays, June 19 to September 20, on the Howard Family Stage in the Douglas Campbell Tent
• Plays in repertory with Shakespeare’s Rebel which begins previews July 2
Talkback Tuesdays July 7, 21, August 4 & 18 – Q&A session with members of the Love’s Labour’s Lost cast following the performance

 

Ticket prices for 2015 include all applicable fees and taxes and begin at $26. The Global BC Youth Price is also available. Early booking is recommended for best seat selection; many performances sell out in advance. Full pricing information, the performance schedule and site and event details are on the Bard website at bardonthebeach.org. To book tickets, call the Bard Box Office at 604-739-0559 or (toll free) 1-877-739-0559 or order online through the Bard website.

Join Bard on the Beach for The Comedy of Errors

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Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival opens its 26th season with The Comedy of Errors. Directed by Bard on the Beach Artistic AssociateScott Bellis, this steampunk rendition of Shakespeare’s lively comedy runs June 4 to September 26 on the BMO Mainstage. Double trouble has never been more delightful! Two sets of long-lost twins meet up unexpectedly, creating hilarious confusion for their friends, loved ones – and most of all themselves.

THE STORY: After a shipwreck that split his family apart many years ago, Egeon (Scott Bellis), a merchant from Syracuse, finds himself facing the death penalty for illegally being in the rival city of Ephesus. Duke Solinus (Jeff Gladstone), moved by Egeon’s story, suspends the death penalty for just one day to give him time to raise the money to pay a fine, setting the plot in motion.

Meanwhile Egeon’s son, Antipholus of Syracuse (Ben Elliott), along with his servant, Dromio of Syracuse (Luisa Jojic), have also just arrived in town with the same family-seeking mission in mind. Things become complicated when they stumble upon the home of their identical twin brothers, Antipholus of Ephesus (Jay Hindle) and Dromio of Ephesus (Dawn Petten). Of course the locals of Ephesus all mistake the twins for their counterparts, fromAntipholus’ wife Adriana (Sereana Malani) and her sister Luciana (Lindsey Angell), to Angelo the goldsmith (Andrew Cownden), Balthasar the merchant (Andrew McNee) and a Courtesan (Lili Beaudoin), turning the town upside down. When it seems like things could not get any stranger, we meet the mysterious Abbess (Anna Galvin), who has a secret of her own. Adding to the entertaining twists and turns along the way are Daniel Doheny(Maud, The Collections Officer) and Josh Epstein (The Smuggler).

Audiences will be transported into an alternate reality with the help of Malcolm Dow’s imaginative sound design and Gerald King’s lighting, adding to the eye-popping steampunk world that set designer Pam Johnson has created on stage. Costume designer Mara Gottler gives the classical Shakespearean play a full-blown visual makeover, using references to steampunk culture and colour to heighten the confusion, also showcased through choreography by Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg. Production Stage Manager Stephen Courtenay is assisted by Kelly Barker (Assistant Stage Manager) and Alexandra Shewan (Apprentice Stage Manager). Apprentice Director for The Comedy of Errors is Amanda Lockitch.

Performance details for The Comedy of Errors are as follows:
• Previews: June 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13; OPENS: Saturday, June 13 at 7:30pm
• Runs Tuesdays through Sundays, June 4 to September 26, on the BMO Mainstage in Vanier Park
• Plays in repertory with King Lear which begins previews on June 18
Bard-B-Q & Fireworks: July 25, 29 & August 1 @ 5pm (NEW TIME) – See The Comedy of Errors or Shakespeare’s Rebel followed by a delicious salmon barbecue, post-dinner entertainment & a private view of the fireworks. Tickets from $95.
Wine Wednesdays – an intimate pre-show wine tasting in the Bard Marquee on July 15, August 12 & September 9 @ 6pm

 

Ticket prices for 2015 include all applicable fees and taxes and begin at $26. The Global BC Youth Price is also available. Early booking is recommended for best seat selection; many performances sell out in advance. Full pricing information, the performance schedule and site and event details are on the Bard website at bardonthebeach.org. To book tickets, call the Bard Box Office at 604-739-0559 or (toll free) 1-877-739-0559 or order online through the Bard website.

 

Bard on the Beach gratefully acknowledges its 2015 Season Sponsor, Goldcorp, and the production sponsor of The Comedy of Errors, RE/MAX.