Paul E. Anna: High Points
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Though it is obviously a little late for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (have you seen the yellow on the trees? It’s already feeling positively fall-ish), it is just the right time for the late-summer performances of the Hudson Reed Ensemble’s Shakespeare in the Park.
Yes, Kent Reed and his little band of talented and dedicated merry-makers are at it once again, this time bringing to life the Shakespeare comedy “Twelfth Night.” While the opening performance last week was rudely interrupted and actually cancelled due to rain, you have a number of opportunities to partake in the mirth this week and next. Tonight’s performance in the lovely (though potentially endangered) Galena Performance Center behind the Pitkin County Library begins at 5:30. It will be followed by presentations Saturday and Sunday and on the Friday and Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Same place and same time.
Perhaps best of all, the performances are free. It provides a great opportunity to take a family out to the park for a little entertainment before dinner and not break the bank.
For seven summers or so, the Reed Ensemble has tackled the best of the Bard, giving his plays new interpretations depending upon the whims and innovations dreamed up by Reed and his cast of characters. This year, Reed’s adaptation takes the play from Elizabethan England (it was first performed in 1602 near the end of Elizabeth the first reign) to Long Island’s Hamptons communities circa the 1920s.
As in keeping with the spirit of the times, the Roaring Twenties that is, not the Elizabethan 1600s, the play begins with a song and dance number to the tune of Irving Berlin’s “Putting on the Ritz.” This is pure Hudson Reed, having fun with Shakespeare, a playwright who wrote comedies with as much aplomb as he wrote drama. The cast is dressed in ’20s garb that brings to mind “The Great Gatsby.”
This year Reed is directing the performance, which includes longtime regulars like Lee Sullivan and Michael Maroney. Also included in the cast are Courtney Thompson, Lisette Shiffer and Franz Alderfer. I may be leaving someone out, forgive me, but the cast does a marvelous job throughout of bringing an air of frivolity to the play. A big improvement for this year’s presentations is the wireless microphones that allow all of the actors to be heard.
As great as the productions are, perhaps the best part of going to the Hudson Reed Ensemble Shakespeare productions is simply being able to see theatre under blue sky and the green hillsides of the Aspen location. Shakespeare in the Park in New York’s Central Park is renowned for its spectacular performances, but ask most folks why they go and they’ll tell you it is for the scene, the happening and getting together outdoors. Such is the case with the Ensemble.
I mentioned that the Galena Plaza might be endangered. There is talk that the potential expansion of the library could bring an end to these summer night performances, as the current plans would change the nature of the Plaza. This is a great opportunity to get out and see the Plaza and make up your own mind about what impacts the library expansion would have on the arts. Perhaps it will spur a better idea where both entities would benefit.
In any event, the time is right for a little summer theatre. But bring a sweater. As I said, it is feeling positively fall-ish.
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Aspen City Council’s recent actions are proof that you get what you pay for, argues Elizabeth Milias in her Red Ant column this week.