Not hard to find the Bard: Where to catch Shakespeare around NYC this summer

Shakespeare's "A Comedy of Errors" at Public Theater
The company of Mobile Unit’s The Comedy of Errors, touring the five boroughs May 2-21 and returning to The Public through June 11.
Photo by Peter Cooper/provided

Regretfully, there will be no Shakespeare in the Park season in Central Park this summer due to a long-planned renovation of the Delacorte Theatre, which will reopen in 2025 with a new production of the comedy “Twelfth Night.” However, there are some other options available for those looking for an annual summertime dose of the Bard.

The Public Theater, which presents Shakespeare in the Park, is bringing back last year’s free traveling production of “The Comedy of Errors,” which will play a tour of outdoor sites in all five boroughs from May 28-30. This is not a traditional rendition of Shakespeare’s prankish comedy of mistaken identity but rather a bilingual musical adaptation in English and Spanish with actor-musicians and modern Latin American music styles.

Sara Ornelas in Mobile Unit’s The Comedy of Errors, touring the five boroughs
Sara Ornelas in Mobile Unit’s The Comedy of Errors, touring the five boroughs May 2-21 and returning to The Public through June 11.Photo by Peter Cooper/provided

Uptown over at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheatre in Marcus Garvey Park, the Classical Theatre of Harlem will stage “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which will be directed by Carl Cofield (“Seize the King,” “Twelfth Night”) and star Canadian stand-up comic Russell Peters as the hapless aspiring actor-turned-animal Nick Bottom.

Another option for free outdoor Shakespeare this summer is New York Classical Theatre’s production of “Henry IV,” a combination of the history plays “Henry IV, Part 1 and 2,” which famously feature one of Shakespeare’s greatest comic characters, Sir John Falstaff. As the company’s press release notes, “Henry IV” will be the only Shakespeare play to be staged in Central Park this summer. It will also play Carl Schurz Park, Battery Park and Castle Clinton.

In case you missed them, or want to relive them, four recent Shakespeare in the Park productions that were professionally filmed for the Great Performances series – including “Much Ado About Nothing” (2019), “Merry Wives” (2021), “Richard III” (2022), and “Hamlet” (2023) – will be available for streaming on the PBS website through the end of June. Among them, I highly recommend “Much Ado,” which will also be presented at free outdoor screenings.

If you are open to leaving the city, you could check out “By the Queen” (an exploration of Queen Margaret of “Henry VI, Parts 1, 2 and 3” and “Richard III”) at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Putnam County or the pastoral comedy “As You Like It” presented by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at its outdoor stage Saint Elizabeth University in Morristown.

Outside the tristate area, there is also Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires (which is producing “The Comedy of Errors”) and Ontario’s Stratford Festival (which is staging “Twelfth Night,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Cymbeline,” in addition to various other plays and musicals). Prior to the pandemic, I visited Stratford on an annual basis and highly recommend checking out the bucolic but extraordinarily busy festival, which operates out of multiple theaters with a large repertory cast.

While there is no Shakespeare play currently on Broadway, there is “& Juliet,” the hit musical which combines contemporary pop hits with Elizabethan England, feminism and values of diversity, equality and inclusion. There will be starry Shakespeare productions on Broadway next season, including “Romeo + Juliet” with Rachel Zegler and Kit Connor and “Othello” with Denzel Washington and Jake Gyllenhaal, in addition to “King Lear” with Kenneth Branagh at the Shed in Hudson Yards.

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