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No holds Bard: Shakespeare festival welcomes weird productions

One man in his time plays many parts: Six actors will take on all the roles in a stripped-down version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” happening at the Brick this month.
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Brooklyn’s coolest Shakespeare event is not happening in the parks. Instead, it is in the air-conditioned black box of the Brick in Williamsburg, at the “Shakespeare in the Theater” festival, which started last week and runs until Aug. 28. The creators of the annual festival, now in its third year, never imagined that it would last, said the theater’s artistic director.

“It was a lark, actually,” said Michael Gardner. “We had a dark month to fill. I couldn’t imagine the city could countenance more Shakespeare, but ... we found it to be, mysteriously, one of our biggest hits of 2016. So it became a natural fit for a yearly jam.”

The festival soon developed an “anything-goes” ethos for choosing its productions, said the Greenpoint resident.

“We started the festival looking for a good mix of the Bard’s tragedies and comedies, without landing two of the same play,” said Gardner. “But quickly it became clear that no two ‘Hamlets’ look alike. And the more, the merrier!”

Most of the shows in the festival only run two or three times, so the theater can take a chance on unusual productions.

“As long as we have the capacity for the production and the artists has an energetic spark of an idea and basic proof of competence, we’re super excited to take chances on folks,” said Gardner.

This year’s festival features eight Shakespearean productions, ranging from traditional stage shows to truly bizarre takes on the Bard.

In addition to a race- and gender-swapped version of “Othello,” the festival’s remaining shows include a stripped-down version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” (on Aug. 21, 26, and 27); a take on “Hamlet” set after the main character’s death, titled “Hamlet: What Dreams May Come” (on Aug. 17–19); and “Their food tastes better when they see us starving (or, Coriolanus),” a socialist, multimedia adaptation of Shakespeare’s play about a Roman general who gets into politics (Aug. 20, 23, and 25); along with “A Taste of Shakespeare,” a rapid-fire trip through three of the Bard’s comedies (Aug. 22 and 25).

Shakespeare in the Theater at the Brick (575 Metropolitan Ave. between Union and Lorimer streets in Williamsburg, (718) 907–6189, www.bricktheater.com). Various dates and times through Aug. 27. $20.

Reach arts editor Bill Roundy at broundy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507.
Posted 12:00 am, August 14, 2018
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