amBroadway | Outdoor Uptown Shakespeare returns to Harlem

The Cast of the Classical Theatre of Harlem production of SEIZE THE KING – photo by Richard Termine
The Cast of the Classical Theatre of Harlem production of “Seize the King”
Photo: Richard Termine

With just a handful of exceptions, Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters are not reopening until the fall. Notwithstanding, the annual summertime tradition of free outdoor Shakespeare has at least returned. 

In addition to the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Merry Wives” (Jocelyn Bioh’s contemporary adaptation of the romantic comedy “The Merry Wives of Windsor”) at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, which is currently in previews, one can also check out the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s Uptown Shakespeare in the Park production of “Seize the King” (a reinterpretation of “Richard III” by Will Power) at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park.

There are also roaming productions of “King Lear” (incorporating Nahum Tate’s notorious “happy ending” revision) and “The Two Noble Kinsmen”(a rarely-performed, late-career collaboration between Shakespeare and John Fletcher) that are being presented at multiple locations by NY Classical Theatre and Shakespeare in the Parking Lot respectively.

“Seize the King,” which officially opened last week and runs through July 29, is not merely a cutdown, CliffsNotes version of “Richard III,” a lengthy and convoluted history epic. Instead, it is an original verse drama (with its own soliloquys, slang and sexual drive) built around the notion that Richard’s story must be retold in order to warn future generations of power-hungry dictators. 

While the script only calls for five actors, Carl Cofield’s 90-minute production manages to incorporate an expansive blood-soaked, rough-edged visual design and an all-female dance troupe. The script (which tries to incorporate arguments against xenophobia and imbue the supporting characters with more personality) and the performances can feel uneven. Notwithstanding, during a summer when live theater is still a scarcity, “Seize the King” is certainly an opportunity worth seizing. For more info visit cthnyc.org.

Paul Huntley, Tony-winning wig designer, dies

Tony-winning wig and hair designer Paul Huntley, who worked on more than 200 Broadway shows, died at age 88 last week, prompting numerous stage performers to praise his work on social media. Playwright Paul Rudnick described Huntley as “a great artist, a combination of Dumbledore and Geppetto, with the deepest understanding of theater” who “made performers look superb and feel confident.” According to Michael Cerveris, “his wigs moved and breathed (and stayed on your head!) like a part of me and became an inseparable part of whatever I created under them.” Donna Murphy noted that Huntley also created wigs for people who lost their hair due to cancer treatment.   

In Other Theater News…

“Dana H.” and “Is this a Room,” two dramas produced Off-Broadway by the Vineyard Theatre right before the shutdown occurred, will transfer to Broadway and play the Lyceum Theatre in rep…City Center will produce “Into the Woods,” “The Tap Dance Kid” and “The Life” as part of its upcoming Encores! season…Uzo Aduba (“Orange is the New Black”) will appear on Broadway in Lynn Nottage’s new play “Clyde’s”…the Park Avenue Armory has canceled all remaining performances of “Enemy of the People” in order “to enable Ann Dowd to address a pressing family matter.”