By COLIN DABKOWSKI
Published:July 23, 2010, 12:00 AM
A great actor can make you believe just about anything.
Take Katie White, for instance. She plays the role of Macduff, the Scottish lord whose family was savagely murdered at the behest of the bloodthirsty title character in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”
STAR RATING: 3 and a half stars out of 4
WHAT: Shakespeare in Delaware Park
WHEN: 7:30 p. m. Tuesdays through Sundays through Aug. 15
WHERE: Shakespeare Hill, Delaware Park
INFO: 856-4533, www.shakespeareindelawarepark.org
After hearing the news of her family’s slaughter, a stunned and disbelieving White falls to the floor of the Shakespeare in Delaware Park stage and breaks down into whimpers. When she reaches her hands out toward the doctor delivering the news and says, “All my pretty ones? Did you say all?” You can see the look of animal confusion and kindling rage in her eyes all the way from the top of the hill.
At that moment, it doesn’t matter one iota that White is a woman playing a character plainly meant to be male. Like her fellow actresses in this all-female production of the tragedy that opened Thursday night, all that matters is that you believe her.
In planning the current season, the company’s founder, Saul Elkin, gazed out across the broad landscape of acting talent in Western New York, saw a profusion of women who too seldom get shots at juicy Shakespearean roles and cast a huge swath for them. That smart and simple stroke not only results in a taut and entrancing production, but also provides a fine troupe of female actors a rare chance to show off.
From the macabre ballet of witches that opens the show to the bloody final scenes, director Eileen Dugan strikes and sustains a tone of magnetic darkness, a pervading sense of impending evil that never flags. And though not every member of the large cast manages to inhabit her character as effectively as White, they each deliver in their own ways on the show’s dark, compelling promise.
As Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Kate Konigisor and Josie DiVincenzo ably play out the fateful power relationship of conflicted puppet and unhinged manipulator. Konigisor bounds from confidence to self-doubt and back again in a way that suggests bipolar disorder — her delivery of Shakespeare’s famed “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” soliloquy is particularly excellent — while DiVincenzo revels in the opportunity to play the fatal mischief-maker with permanent blood on her hands.
Standout performances also come from a self-assured Lisa Vitrano as Banquo and Hanna Lipkind as Malcolm. As the bawdy, hung-over porter who waxes poetic on dangers of drink, Jenna Winnett adds a much-needed note of hammy comic relief in a show where horror is always just around the corner.
Tom Makar’s otherworldly sound design starts the show off with a jolt and, like Dugan’s direction, sustains a constant tension and deep foreboding through the show.
Christopher Cavanagh’s lights, Lynne Koscielniak and Dyan O’Connell’s spare sets and Dixon Reynolds’ costumes complete this darkly compelling production.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park (SDP) is pleased to announce the second production of the 2010 season of free professional outdoor theater. After a beautiful start to the 35th Anniversary season, the crowd pleasing Much Ado About Nothing closed Sunday July 11th entertaining record breaking audiences. Shakespeare in Delaware Park will now continue with Macbeth, featuring an all star female cast. This popular tragedy opens July 22nd and runs Tuesdays through Sundays until August 15th at 7:30pm. This all star cast features Kate Konigisor as Macbeth and Josie Divincenzo as Lady Macbeth. Both of these talented actresses are originally from the Buffalo area, who moved to further their acting careers in New York City and California. SDP is honored to have both ladies return to the SDP stage for this exciting production. .
Macbeth also stars: Pamela Mangus, Katie White and Lisa Vitrano. Directed by Eileen Dugan, fight choreography by Steve Vaughn, costume design by Dixon Reynolds and set design by Lynne Koscielniak and Dyan O’Connell . As a “must-see summer event,” Shakespeare in Delaware Park reaches more than 40,000 audience members each year and is proud to be celebrating 35 incredible years of high-quality professional theatre which remains FREE for the public to enjoy.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park performances are held every evening (except Mondays) at 7:30 p.m. Shows take place on Shakespeare Hill in Delaware Park, next to Hoyt Lake behind the Rose Garden, off Lincoln Parkway near the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Thirty five years ago Saul Elkin had an idea to set a Shakespearean play amongst the beautiful foliage of Delaware Park . Though that particular run was successful, he never dreamed that he was about to embark on this artistic journey for over three decades. Today Shakespeare in Delaware Park is the nation’s second largest free outdoor Shakespeare festival, second only to New York City. It attracts over fifty thousand audience members yearly and continues to grow in popularity. “Thirty five years have been a gift,” stated Elkin in a recent interview.
When Elkin first came to Buffalo, he was certainly not a novice in the professional theatre. He already held graduate degrees from Columbia and Carnegie Melon universities, performed on and off Broadway, and was hired as the Theatre Department Chairperson at University of Buffalo. His genius, passion and drive are the qualities that propelled Shakespeare in Delaware Park to the cultural institution it is today.
This year Elkin opened the season with William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which runs until July 11 before it makes way for the second show of the season, Macbeth. About a half hour before the show opened, he graciously spoke with me about his views on theatre, directing and education. His love of the art is clearly a direct reflection for his love of life. “I don’t feel any older,” he laughed. And then he got a twinkle in his eye when he mentioned his talented daughters, both professional artists in their own right (Rebecca is an actor and drama therapist; Emily is an accomplished cellist). “My greatest happiness is that they’re both performing artists,” said Elkin.
In the middle of our conversation he blushed when an audience member wanted to praise him. “My family and I want to thank you,” said the patron. “We were watching you rehearse in the park last week, and we want to tell you that coming to your shows every year has been a big part of our lives.”
This is the very magic that Elkin casts on wide audiences. His uncanny ability to make Shakespeare accessible is second to none. This year, for instance, he took creative liberty and set Much Ado in the post-war 1940′s era. The production is complete with dancing and the live music he loves from that time period. A chorus of four singers and an on-stage accompanist not only captured the attention of the large audiences on the hill, but even the interest of people who weren’t even at the festival. They were walking dogs or jogging along Hoyt Lake, and they stopped in their tracks– spellbound.
But Elkin said the success of the company is not all his. “In brief, however much I prepare, invent, or conceptualize, I try not to see the final product in my mind’s eye. I try to cast [the plays] well and then open the door for the actors and designers to invent and surprise me– and they always do,” he said.
Lisa Ludwig, one of Buffalo’s first-rate actors and Managing Director of the company, is playing the lead female role of Beatrice in Much Ado. As she prepared for her performance back stage, in her 1940′s Katherine Hepburn-like costume, she shared how wonderful it is to work on the production. “What can I say? I love working with Saul,” she said. “And there is nothing like looking out at the audience on a perfect summer night when the sun has just set and the citronella candles are flickering and [I have] this moment of knowing how lucky we are to have Shakespeare in Delaware Park in Buffalo,” she added.
Much Ado About Nothing runs until July 11, 2010. (There will be no show on July 4). Both plays of the season, Much Ado and Macbeth, run Tuesdays through Sundays, and start at 7:30 pm. On Tuesdays the directors will hold discussions with audiences a half hour before curtain. Also, pre-show live music is performed at 7pm on Wednesdays. It is best to get there early, as audiences flock to the hill in order to set up lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets. In the wise words of the Bard himself, “Joy’s soul lies in the doing.” Hazzah!
Buffalo News, 6/24/10
I was disappointed by Colin Dabkowski’s review of Shakespeare in the Park’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” I find it hard to believe that he saw the same opening performance I saw. Dabkowski mistakenly labels it the 34th season, while the program clearly notes that it is the 35th. He then expresses his dislike of the music, going so far as to call for a “proper pit band.” Methinks he doth protest too much. I thought the music was well conceived and executed.
Rather than attempting to label some performances as “nuanced, engrossing interpretations” (good stuff!), and others as “credible attempts to deliver” (not quite so good!),I would emphasize the extent to which this is an ensemble production, featuring a marvelous group of Buffalo actors working together, playing off each other and creating a hugely entertaining version of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
I would mention that these people are all multitalented, not only delivering Shakespeare’s words clearly and meaningfully, not an easy task, but singing, and dancing, and dealing with the slings and arrows and noises of our outdoor theater.
I would mention that the lighting was so good that it wouldn’t even be noticed, that the sound system worked brilliantly most of the time, that the costumes and setting were all cleverly designed and adapted to add to the intended effect of the play. I would mention the many sea gulls who flew overhead on cue, and the lone blue heron who graced the sky during intermission. I would mention the huge crowd of all ages, whose attention was held by the warm antics on stage, even after the chilly darkness began to descend. This production is no stumble. It shines. I encourage readers to see for themselves. They won’t regret it.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park is pleased to announce its 35th anniversary season of free, professional outdoor theater. The summer’s exciting season will open June 17th with one of Shakespeare’s most delightful romantic comedies, Much Ado About Nothing. Directed by Saul Elkin, this production will be set in the 1940′s after World War II and include popular romantic music of the era sung by a chorus of singers with on-stage accompaniment. John Fredo and Lisa Ludwig take on the roles of Benedict and Beatrice along with local favorites Norm Sham, Tim Newell and Tom Loughlin. After the fun romp of Much Ado, SDP will venture down a path of relentless murder, self delusion and guilt, as an all female cast presents the retelling of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Macbeth. Opening July 22nd, Eileen Dugan directs this all-star ensemble, including two actresses returning to their home town to appear on the Delaware Park stage. Kate Konigisor and Josie DiVincenzo, playing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, will be joined by the talents of Katie White, Lisa Vitrano and Pam Mangus.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park reaches over 40,000 audience members each season and is proud to be celebrating 35 amazing years of high-quality professional theatre that remains FREE to the public. Much Ado About Nothing runs June 17th – July 11th with Macbeth on stage July 22nd –August 15th. Performances are held every evening (except Mondays) at 7:30 p.m. (no performances June 18th and July 4th). Shows take place on Shakespeare Hill in Delaware Park, next to Hoyt Lake behind the Rose Garden, off Lincoln Parkway near the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Further information may be obtained at www.shakespeareindelawarepark.org or by calling (716) 856-4533.
2010 Season Sponsors include M&T Bank, Erie County, New York State Council on the Arts, WGRZ Channel 2, The Buffalo News, Rich Renaissance Catering, Brodo, WBFO and CPI. Additional funding comes from members, donors and audience donations.