Rather than make light of the brutal treatment Shylock receives at the hands of his "Christian" adversaries, director James Bohnen confronts this ugliness head on, tempering the play's romantic comedy with poignant questions about mercy and justice.
Contemporary performances of Shakespeare always confront one
question: modernize the play to make it more relevant to today's audiences, or stay faithful to the text and trust that the Bard's words will stand on their own? Although Sanford Robbins, the director of American Players
Theatre's new production of Julius Caesar, makes some pointed political commentary in the show's program, he's chosen to root the play itself firmly in ancient Rome. Any 21st-century parallels we wish to draw ' or not ' are wisely
left up to the audience rather than forced.
American Players Theatre bucks all the current trends in American theater, in spite of its out-of-the-way location. Each season, it attracts an impressive group of artists who are willing to weather the unique circumstances of making theater in a place that might be more suited to a wilderness camp or religious cult. They come because the leaders of APT know the value of an institution that supports artists in their work.
"I'll never forget my first time here," says David Frank of American Players Theatre in Spring Green. "It was a very hot July; the Porta-Potties had a pretty obnoxious smell. I was at a matinee and it was like being on a griddle. And there were 300 people watching an uncut production of The Winter's Tale. I thought, that's some audience!" laughs Frank, his vivid blue eyes sparkling as he recalls the summer of 1991.