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 Millerâ€™s â€œThe Crucibleâ€ and William Shakespeareâ€™s â€œAllâ€™s Well That Ends Wellâ€ wasnâ€™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 fallâ€™s production of Shakespeareâ€™s â€œMeasure for Measure.â€
â€œEarly in the year when we picked the full season, â€˜Measure for Measureâ€™ and â€˜Allâ€™s Well That Ends Wellâ€™ are linked in the period of writing for Shakespeare,â€ Fee said. â€œTheyâ€™re written about the same time and they represent part of a real shift in his writing, particularly his writing of comedies in which heâ€™s experimenting with forms that arenâ€™t strictly comedic and not fully dramatic or to push it further, tragic.
â€œSo theyâ€™re often considered tragic comedies, and itâ€™s really an extraordinary blend of both comic and dramatic elements.â€
Fee, who is directing â€œAllâ€™s Well That Ends Well,â€ said the play is one of Shakespeareâ€™s more obscure and rarely performed productions, which he believes offers â€œa really deeply satisfying experience for the audience.â€
As for â€œThe Crucibleâ€ (opening March 28 in the Ohio Theatre), Millerâ€™s American classic about the 1692 Salem Witch trials, the timing felt just right.
â€œThe pick of â€˜The Crucibleâ€™ came about for many reasons,â€ Fee said. â€œFirst 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 weâ€™re looking at should we say profiling.
â€œAn Arthur Miller play takes enormous resources to be able to produce, and itâ€™s something that we as a company can do. So itâ€™s a very large-scale piece. Itâ€™s the first time weâ€™ve done Arthur Miller in a long time in this company, and it offers extraordinary acting roles.â€
The repertory productions of â€œThe Crucibleâ€ and â€œAllâ€™s Well That Ends Wellâ€ speak to the heart of the Great Lakes Theater Festival, which concludes its 46th season this spring. Fee said the two plays â€” a drama and a comedy â€” are somewhat risky selections that cater directly to the adventurous theatergoer.
Something else thatâ€™s currently being designed to better serve the Great Lakes Theater Festivalâ€™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 companyâ€™s 47th season.
While the Great Lakes Theater Festival will continue to produce its popular holiday tradition â€œA Christmas Carolâ€ in the Ohio Theatre, the rest of its schedule will be taking place in its new home. Itâ€™s for this reason that Fee feels seeing â€œThe Crucibleâ€ and/or â€œAllâ€™s Well That Ends Wellâ€ offers something special.
â€œThis is the last time weâ€™ll be doing a full rep in that house thatâ€™s been our home for 25 years,â€ Fee said. â€œI 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.
â€œThatâ€™s why we continue to work on the great classics of our culture.â€
Benson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: The Great Lakes Theater Festival presents its spring repertory of Arthur Millerâ€™s â€œThe Crucibleâ€ and William Shakespeareâ€™s â€œAllâ€™s Well That Ends Wellâ€
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