Shakespeare & Company leads audiences through a 'Labyrinth of Love' this summer

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LENOX — The way Shakespeare & Company artistic director Allyn Burrows sees it there's not a lot of love going around these days. His Lenox-based theater company is planning to fill the void.

Burrows is dubbing the company's 2020 season "Labyrinth of Love."

"There is so little love out there these days," Burrows said, settling into a chair at his desk in his office in the company's Miller Building, sipping from a cup of just-brewed coffee. "All of our plays this season will deal with various aspects of love."

The season begins in May 21 in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre with Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell's "The Lifespan of a Fact," directed by James Warwick and featuring Annette Miller, and ends Sept. 18-Oct. 19 with Harold Pinter's "Betrayal," also in the Bernstein. Regge Life will direct Elizabeth Aspenlieder, David Joseph and a third actor yet to be cast..

The other contemporary plays this summer are "What Rhymes With America" by Melissa James Gibson (July 23-Aug. 15, Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre); "Row After Row" by Jessica Dickey (Aug. 13-Sept. 13, Tina Packer Playhouse); and a special reading of Susan Miller's "My Left Breast" with Corinna May (July 16-19, Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre)

The previously announced roster of plays by Shakespeare includes "The Comedy of Errors" in an outdoor production in The Dell at Edith Wharton's home, The Mount, directed by Michael F. Toomey; "Much Ado About Nothing," with MaConnia Chesser and Ryan Winkles as Beatrice and Benedick in the outdoor Roman Garden on the Shakespeare & Company campus at 70 Kemble St., directed by Kelly Galvin; a workshop reading of "Measure For Measure," directed by Alice Reagan, Sept. 2-6 in the Bernstein Theatre; and the much-anticipated "King Lear" starring Christopher Lloyd, June 28 through Aug. 2 in the Tina Packer Playhouse. Nicole Ricciardi is directing. Burrows will be playing The Fool. Company veterans Nigel Gore and Jonathan Epstein also are in the cast.

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"I'm really eager to engage with Christopher Lloyd on this level," Burrows said. "Nicole has directed so many non-Shakespeare plays for us ["Creditors," "4000 Miles," last season's "Time Stands Still"]. She brings such precision and care to her work."

Based on a true story, "The Lifespan of a Fact" (May 21-July 11) deals with the professional relationship between a demanding fact checker and a famous writer who turns the reality of a tragic event in order to serve the purposes of his narrative. Set in a middle ground between truth and fiction, "Lifespan of a Fact," Burrows said, asks fundamental questions about the nature of truth — "What is truth?" he asked rhetorically. "Is your truth my truth?"; the same issues, incidentally, that frame "Betrayal," which charts the twisting relationships among a husband, his wife and her lover over a seven-year period with the narrative unfolding in chronological order from the present back to the past. "What's more of a betrayal," Burrows said, "than having your best friend sleeping with your wife."

Burrows describes "What Rhymes With America" as "a beautiful play. This is such great writing," Burrows said, "about a father whose life is coming undone and is trying to salvage some relationship with his daughter. It's touching and funny. It's about how people try to hold their lives together."

Jessica Dickey's "Row After Row," which Tina Packer will direct, focuses on two Civil War reenactors who walk into a bar after their annual participation in the battle of Gettysburg to find that a woman they don't know is occupying their usual table. The play shifts back and forth in time between the present and the period of the Civil War. "It's a play that talks about how we find ourselves through storytelling," Burrows said. "It's also about how we speak about the people who came before us."

"My Left Breast," Burrows said, "is about a woman's journey. It's about courage; about overcoming challenge with humor and insight."

In the midst of what is likely to be a tumultuous election season, Burrows said he hoped this would be "a contemplative year. I want this to be a summer where people can come [to Shakespeare & Company] and really take some time to reflect."


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