June 28, 2016

Partly sunny

New season brings ‘The Crucible’ and ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’

By John Benson
Special to The Gazette

When Great Lakes Theater Festival Production Artistic Director Charlie Fee programmed the 2007-08 repertory season, he admits a thematic link between the upcoming productions of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” and William Shakespeare’s “All’s Well That Ends Well” wasn’t what he had in mind.

However, a link does exist between the latter show, which opens April 12 at the Ohio Theatre and last fall’s production of Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.”

“Early in the year when we picked the full season, ‘Measure for Measure’ and ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ are linked in the period of writing for Shakespeare,” Fee said. “They’re written about the same time and they represent part of a real shift in his writing, particularly his writing of comedies in which he’s experimenting with forms that aren’t strictly comedic and not fully dramatic or to push it further, tragic.

“So they’re often considered tragic comedies, and it’s really an extraordinary blend of both comic and dramatic elements.”

Fee, who is directing “All’s Well That Ends Well,” said the play is one of Shakespeare’s more obscure and rarely performed productions, which he believes offers “a really deeply satisfying experience for the audience.”

As for “The Crucible” (opening March 28 in the Ohio Theatre), Miller’s American classic about the 1692 Salem Witch trials, the timing felt just right.

“The pick of ‘The Crucible’ came about for many reasons,” Fee said. “First of all, it feels very timely given the world that we are in to explore this play about our sort of mass hysteria, a play in which we’re looking at should we say profiling.

“An Arthur Miller play takes enormous resources to be able to produce, and it’s something that we as a company can do. So it’s a very large-scale piece. It’s the first time we’ve done Arthur Miller in a long time in this company, and it offers extraordinary acting roles.”

The repertory productions of “The Crucible” and “All’s Well That Ends Well” speak to the heart of the Great Lakes Theater Festival, which concludes its 46th season this spring. Fee said the two plays — a drama and a comedy — are somewhat risky selections that cater directly to the adventurous theatergoer.
Something else that’s currently being designed to better serve the Great Lakes Theater Festival’s base audience is its new home in the Hannah Theater. The multimillion dollar project, which includes a thrust stage to take the action deep into the 550-seat venue, is due to be finished for the company’s 47th season.
While the Great Lakes Theater Festival will continue to produce its popular holiday tradition “A Christmas Carol” in the Ohio Theatre, the rest of its schedule will be taking place in its new home. It’s for this reason that Fee feels seeing “The Crucible” and/or “All’s Well That Ends Well” offers something special.

“This is the last time we’ll be doing a full rep in that house that’s been our home for 25 years,” Fee said. “I think for an audience, the opportunity to see great, great literature come to life live in the theater experience is something that can change you and something that brings enormous satisfaction and rewards to any audience.

“That’s why we continue to work on the great classics of our culture.”

Benson may be reached at ididhear@aol.com.

What: The Great Lakes Theater Festival presents its spring repertory of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” and William Shakespeare’s “All’s Well That Ends Well”
When: March 29 through April 12 (times and performances vary)
Where: Ohio Theatre, 1513 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
Tickets: $22 to $56
Info: Call 216-241-6000 or visit www.greatlakestheater.org