High Points: Real theater | AspenTimes.com

High Points: Real theater

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

The thing about Shakespeare in the Park, as presented by the Hudson Reed Ensemble, is that it is just so, well, so comfortable.

Nothing against the Music Festival or shows at the Wheeler, or the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet or any of the other great events and venues that we have to be thankful for here in Aspen. But they all involve a little effort. You have to get the tickets and make the arrangements with your friends, you have to get dressed, you have to park, you have to yadda-yadda a little bit. But if you go to a Reed joint, all you gotta do is show up and be entertained.

This is the sixth season that the Hudson Reed Ensemble has gathered in Galena Park (between the library and the Pitkin County Jail) to put on some finely rehearsed and finely acted Shakespeare for anyone who just wants to swing by on beautiful evening to see some great theater. This year the Ensemble tackles the “Taming of the Shrew,” one of the Bard’s most beloved plays. It titillates and pleases with a little romance, some comedy and a timeless plot. Or at least a plot that has beguiled theater lovers for 400 or so years since it was first performed in England.

As is their wont, the Ensemble performs this play with what one would call a twist. While the actors use the original Shakespearian language, the setting has changed so that the play takes place not in the “Old West” exactly, but in the milieu of the “Old Western.” That is, it uses an imaginary place that was the television western of the 1950s and 60s. All of the characters are patterned after a combination of Shakespeare’s original players and the stars of television’s classic Westerns. Get it?

For example, Lady Katherina from the original Shakespeare text melds with the Miss Kitty character from Gunsmoke, as she is played by the actress Charisse Layne. And Petruchio lives on as he is morphed into a Texas Ranger, named appropriately, Ranger, played by actor Lee Sullivan. Just go with it. It is a clever amalgamation of two very different but unique entertainment genres that just happen to have come along four centuries apart.

There are performances of the play tonight and on Saturday and Sunday and then next week on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 2-3. The “curtain” as it were, goes up at 5:30 p.m., and if you make a 7 o’clock dinner reservation your timing will be perfect as the final encores and standing ovations should end by 6:45 p.m. And, once again, all performances are free to all who attend.

The Hudson Reed Ensemble performances have become as much a part of the summer scene here in Aspen as the late August sunsets. Be sure to stroll on by for a look and a listen to one of the special elements of our cultural scene.

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