PREVIEW; Hamlet, Please Pass The Off!
By MICHELLE FALKENSTEIN
AH, summer. Lazy afternoons, sand between the toes (hey, watch out for the pedicure!), trashy novels and a dash of Shakespeare?
Yes, in a season when most people are grazing on Steele and Grisham, ol' Will packs them in statewide for a heavy dose of the king's English -- and we're not talking Stephen.
''There's a tradition of Shakespeare in the summer,'' said John McEwen, executive director of the New Jersey Theater Alliance. ''The natural environment lends itself to Shakespeare. That's why you see it in amphitheaters and large park settings.'' What's more, Mr. McEwen added, the Globe Theater had an outdoor stage. ''People have kept that tradition.''
Following are some highlights from this summer's Shakespeare offerings in New Jersey.
HUDSON SHAKESPEARE COMPANY -- Hudson Shakespeare will present ''Hamlet'' through June 16; ''Antony and Cleopatra'' June 19 to July 9; ''Richard III'' July 18 to Aug. 6; and ''Love's Labour's Lost'' Aug. 7 to 27. All three plays will be performed at multiple locations. In addition, from July 10 to 17, the company will offer ''Sweet Love, Adieu,'' a play from 2001 written in Shakespearean language by Ryan J.W. Smith. ''Anyone walking by would think it was Shakespeare,'' said John Ciccarelli, the company's managing director. Information: (973)449-7443 or at www.hudsonshakespeare.org.
MCCARTER THEATER -- The McCarter will present ''Hamlet'' directed by Daniel Fish through June 19; (609) 258-2787 or www.mccarter.org.
PRINCETON REP SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL -- ''The Tempest'' will be performed Aug. 11-28 at Pettoranello Gardens Amphitheater in Princeton, Thursdays to Sundays; (609)921-3682 or www.princetonrep.org.
SHAKESPEARE '70 -- This Trenton repertory company will present ''Much Ado About Nothing'' at the Open Air Theater in Washington Crossing State Park in Titusville June 9-11 and June 16-18. ''The comedies are usually popular'' in the summer, said Tom Curbishley, the company's treasurer and an actor. ''But we've had success with 'Hamlet' and 'Macbeth,' too.'' Information: (609)882-5979 or www.shakespeare70.org.
THE SHAKESPEARE THEATER OF NEW JERSEY -- Most of the theater's summer offerings were not written by Shakespeare, but you can still catch ''Merry Wives of Windsor'' through June 26. This production of the play is as close to Elizabethan as the company has ever done, according to Bonnie Monte, the theater's artistic director. ''It's early Cavalier,'' she said. ''We wanted to avoid the pumpkin pants. They're horrible to work in and they're horrible to look at.'' The last time they presented ''Merry Wives,'' she said, they set it in the Catskills in the 1950's; (973)408-5600 or www.shakespearenj.org.
Photo: ''Merry Wives of Windsor'' is at Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey. (Photo by Gerry Goodstein)