Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Rush Up Your Shakespeare

You can't swing a sling in the summertime without hitting someone performing Shakespeare alfresco, but up in the hills around California Shakespeare Theater's outdoor stage you'd wind up hitting two plays with one stone. Henry IV is a homecoming of sorts for former artistic director Dakin Matthews (from back when it was the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival), whose Tony-winning adaptation of the two parts of Henry IV into a single play is directed here by newcomer Mladen Kiselov.

The play is staged in modern dress, in a sort of vague 1940s land of never-was, if for no other reason than to show off costumer Beaver Bauer's snazzy suits and a sprightly selection of vintage jazz. There's a nice running gag in which summiting leaders pause for photo ops before proceeding to brass tacks, but other modern touches seem gratuitous. Narelle Sissons' stylized set -- a huge metal silo that unfolds into a rusty industrial shell housing the opposing camps on opposite sides of the stage -- is striking, but it's unclear what it signifies

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