Tuesday, October 8, 2013

One-sex productions of Shakespeare expand by Linda Winer

This can sound retro, if not just a bit silly, like separate playgrounds for the girls and the boys.

But in the coming weeks, New York theatergoers will be introduced to major productions of single-gender Shakespeare. Of course, the "trend" began more than four centuries ago in Elizabethan London, at least for the guys. Lately, however, all-women Shakespeare is enjoying what appears to be a healthy, tumultuous turnabout.

As everyone knows who at least saw "Shakespeare in Love," women were banned from performing on the wicked stage during his time, which means that men and boys played all the roles he ever wrote. When actor Mark Rylance became the first artistic director of the remarkable, re-created Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in 1995, he helped spearhead a return to the original practice.

Rylance, who won Tonys for his wildly contrasting star turns in "Boeing, Boeing" in 2008 and "Jerusalem" in 2011, is the box-office lure for the celebrated all-male "Richard III" and "Twelfth Night," which begin previews Oct. 15 at the Belasco Theatre and open, in repertory, Nov. 10. Rylance plays another couple of contrasting characters -- the humpbacked king in one and the noble Olivia in the other. But the Globe productions, which approximate original Elizabethan fabrics, weaponry and limited lighting, promise far more than a star turn.

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