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March 5, 2007

Shakespeare Santa Cruz announces new season of serious comedy

By Scott Rappaport

Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC) has announced a sterling lineup of serious comedy as it heads into its 26th season beginning this July.

Photo of Shakespeare Santa Cruz

Paul Whitworth as Henry Higgins and Julia Coffey as Eliza Doolittle in SSC's 2006 production of Pygmalion
Photo courtesy of Shakespeare Santa Cruz

The award-winning company will present Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest under the redwoods in the outdoor Festival Glen, plus Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and John Millington Synge’s Playboy of the Western World at the indoor Theater Arts Mainstage.

“As we enter our 26th season we are thrilled to offer a fourth summer production–something that we haven’t done since 1993,” noted Marcus Cato, SSC’s managing director. “This season gives us the chance to link the work of Shakespeare to two modern masterpieces; our goal is to expose our audiences to seminal 20th-century plays as well as to Shakespeare and other classics.”

“All four plays are innovative and prophetic in terms of their style, and are considered trailblazers for the types of comedy they introduced in their time,” added SSC Artistic Director Paul Whitworth, who will perform roles in both Endgame and Playboy of the Western World. “The plays share themes of isolation and liberation, each in a way that is both unique and seriously funny.”

Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s most enduring plays—a tale of deceit and disguise. Much like a modern romantic comedy, the humor springs from mistrust and suspicion between the sexes. Young lovers Hero and Claudio confront the risky business of entering into a romantic partnership, while Beatrice and Benedick are the only two characters unaware of their love for each other. The play will be directed by Kim Rubinstein, associate artistic director of the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.

The Tempest blends music and spectacle along with comedy, tragedy, and romance. It tells the story of Prospero, a former duke shipwrecked on a desert island with his daughter Miranda by his jealous brother who deposed him. Isolated, Prospero becomes a magician and master of all things in his own world. Years later, with his enemies now at his mercy, the question is whether he remains isolated by choosing revenge, or frees himself through forgiveness. The Tempest will be directed by Kirsten Brandt, current resident director of San Jose Rep and former artistic director of the Sledgehammer Theatre in San Diego.

Playboy of the Western World is a three-act play written by Irish playwright J. M. Synge and first performed in Dublin in 1907. It depicts a tiny community in the rural west of Ireland that is plunged into turmoil by the arrival of the fugitive Christy Mahon, a young man who claims he has risen up against the tyranny of his father and killed him. Christy is re-created overnight as a great hero of the small sea-swept town in a glorious comedy about how people are defined by their wildest hopes and dreams, and what happens when those dreams comically bump into reality. The play will be directed by Robert Moss, artistic director of Syracuse Stage and founding director of the Playwrights Horizons Theater School in affiliation with New York University.

Samuel Beckett’s Endgame is a masterpiece of immense pathos and humor that was first produced in 1957. It celebrates the resilience of the human spirit within the absurdity of a world that seems totally redundant and futile. Beckett has his four characters interact in a spare, surreal setting, exploring comedy through the filter of the tragic inevitability of the human condition. Endgame will be directed by Peter Lichtenfels, formerly of the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Leicester Haymarket in England, and now chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at UC Davis.

Subscriptions for the 2007 season of Shakespeare Santa Cruz go on sale in mid-April; single tickets will be available beginning mid-May. For more festival and ticket information, visit the SSC web site or call the UCSC Ticket Office at (831) 459-2159.


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