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Friday, July 11, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 63.0° F  Fair
Arts

THEATER

American Players Theatre 2008 season

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A Midsummer Night's Dream (opening June 7): A perennial favorite, Shakespeare's frothy forest comedy fits perfectly into APT's brand slogan, "Play in the Woods." It initiated the theater's productions in 1980, with Randall Duk Kim as Puck. This year, it will be directed by Bill Brown, a Chicagoan with a knack for comedy.

Ah, Wilderness! (opening June 13): Another step into the American 20th century, Eugene O'Neill's friendliest of family plays leans more toward You Can't Take It With You than the playwright's dark masterpieces of generational truth-telling. It's a large, big-hearted play that is a good fit for the theater's outdoor space. John Langs directs Henry Woronicz and Ken Albers and a large cast ripe for great comedy.

Henry IV: The Making of a King (opening June 20): A two-for-one Shakespeare sale combines both parts of the Bard's Henry IV plays into one evening, allowing us to see the full flowering of Prince Hal into King Henry V and his fitful relationship with that towering comic masterpiece, Falstaff (played by Brian Mani). A terrific challenge for director and actors alike, it's a chance to see Shakespearean storytelling at its finest.

Widowers' Houses (opening Aug. 1): Reaching way back to one of George Bernard Shaw's first plays might seem a little odd. But this "Play Unpleasant" is about corruption and exploitation in the real estate world. While not exactly ripped from today's headlines, there are bound to be some potent resonances. Ken Albers directs Matt Schwader, Susan Shunk and James Ridge, as Mr. Lickcheese (Shaw sure had a way with a name).

The Belle's Stratagem (opening Aug. 8): Today, it's a poor cousin to the better-known Beaux Stratagem by George Farquhar. But in its time (the 18th century), it was one of the most popular plays in London. Hannah Cowley is the first woman playwright produced by APT. Call it Jane Austen meets Much Ado About Nothing. David Frank directs a cast that includes Colleen Madden and Marcus Truschinski.

The Desert Queen (July 11 & 27): APT actor James DeVita is taking a year off from the stage to promote his new young-adult novel, but he'll be represented as a playwright and director. Featuring APT regular Sarah Day, this one-woman show tells the story of Gertrude Bell, a wealthy English archeologist who became known as the "Queen of Iraq" when she helped chart the country's borders after World War I. A special event with only two performances, it's perhaps a preview of the kind of work the theater will showcase when its smaller, indoor space is completed in 2009.

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