(Note: Andrei Serban’s assertive directorial presence transforms Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew into a drunken dream, with unhappy results. Performance of the central role of Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge conditions but does not obscure the dramatist’s central subject, the catastrophic loss of dignity. The Shaw Festival in Ontario offers great variety and superior quality in its presentation of other plays in addition to Shaw’s, as in this strong production of The Madras House, Harley Granville Barker’s bitter-sweet overview of a department store in transition. A first play by a school teacher achieves surprising depth and moment in Wit, by Margaret Edson, in which a dying scholar struggles to correlate the religious poetry of John Donne with her own expiring life. The two settings, Sicilia and Bohemia, of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale become dramatic opposites in this scenically challenging production at the American Repertory Theatre.
Brian Dennehy is a great walrus of a Willy Loman in this stunning production by Robert Falls of Miller’s Death of a Salesman. A fresh production of The Glass Menagerie at Hartford Stage reinterprets Tennessee Williams’s atmospheric play as more robust and less sympathetic, while still faithful to the dramatist’s superb writing. Less convincing is Robert Woodruff’s reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s King Richard II at the A.R.T., where a heavy emphasis on implicit homosexual aspects and on extreme elements of costume proves distracting from more primary issues. At Hartford Stage the premiere of a new, all-women play, Necessary Targets, by Eve Ensler, becomes the occasion for a probing analysis of the pain and misery of women in wartime Bosnia.)