Spotlight: Shakespeare in the Summer
To theater fans, summer means al fresco Shakespeare, and Orange County offers a couple of tempting options.
UC Irvine offers an unorthodox and intimate experience with its New Swan Shakespeare Festival, held in a nautilus-shaped pop-up venue that offers everyone a seat close to the action. This summer, artistic director Eli Simon and his crew are presenting a Shakespearean comedy and tragedy.
Beth Lopes directs an artfully re-imagined production of “Much Ado About Nothing” in which Beatrice and Benedick’s verbal sparring takes place just after World War II. Simon directs “Macbeth,” Shakespeare’s challenging and rewarding tale of regicide and its bloody consequences.
One of Orange County’s most venerable summer Shakespeare traditions was the Grove Shakespeare Festival. After a fitful stop-and-start history, its latest incarnation is Shakespeare/Summerfest Orange County under the direction of producing artistic director John Walcutt, a TV, film and theater veteran. Now in his second season at the helm, Walcutt has brought an inclusive and unorthodox approach to the festival, boldly reflected in this summer’s two Shakespeare productions.
“Romeo and Juliet” features acclaimed Vietnamese American TV star Trieu Tran as Romeo and includes Santa Ana’s renowned 50-year-old Mexican folklórico troupe Relámpago del Cielo. This co-production with the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association is directed by Walcutt and Mike Peebler.
An unusual production of “As You Like It” recreates the look and feel of Elizabethan England even before the lights go down. The show begins with a Renaissance Faire in the park that surrounds the 540-seat Festival Amphitheatre in downtown Garden Grove, lending an air of verisimilitude to this lighthearted story of music, adventure and gender-bending deception directed by Peter Uribe.
The New Swan Shakespeare Festival’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Macbeth” play in repertory from July 10 through Aug. 30. Arts Plaza on the Claire Trevor School of the Arts campus, UC Irvine.
Shakespeare/Summerfest Orange County’s “Romeo and Juliet” runs from July 11 through Aug. 1, with previews on July 2, 3, 9 and 10. “As You Like It” runs Aug. 15-29, with previews on Aug. 13 and 14. Festival Amphitheatre, 12762 Main St., Garden Grove.