The Royal Shakespeare Company is on stage at Chicago Shakes in the long awaited epic sequel of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Dunsinane takes over and tells the story if Lady Macbeth was still alive and Siward was settling the affairs of Scotland in the name of the English Monarch.
I haven’t seen a production on the Chicago Shakespeare stage that hasn’t been fully produced by them. I was a little apprehensive that it would not live up to their high standards. There was no need to worry. This production lives up to and exceeds some aspects of Chicago Shake’s productions.
Most impressive is Tom Gill playing the Boy Soldier. He has a great naivety that produces great wisdom. Other standouts includes the queens maids whose vocals were spot on along with live three piece band.
Overall I would recommend this show to anyone who likes Macbeth and enjoys what if scenarios.
[button link=””]Grade: A-[/button]


The set is beautiful wood grain with the sense of flowing sand. There is a huge entrance upstage center along with large jungle looking platforms extreme stage right and stage left. As always before a Chicago Shakes show I am excited and nervous about being able to comprehend the language but I know with this quality of show it will be very well done.
For a Friday night I am surprised that it is not sold out.
The show started out slowly with costumes that seemed more cartoonish than Shakespearean. One character reminded me of Jafar from Aladdin. But I learned that it was supposed to make me uncomfortable because it ended up being a character that I shouldn’t like along with his kingdom.
The story is based around the king of Tyre’s travels. He is shown to be good man that helps neighboring nations. He is ship wrecked and proven to be a gentleman in another kings court. He wins the hand of the princess and they are blessed with a daughter during their sea travel back to Tyre. The new queen dies or so we are meant to think and her body is sealed in casket and sent overboard. The king decides the baby will not last the journey names her Marina and leaves her with another kingdom. The queen of the new kingdom becomes jealous of her and has her henchman kill her. He tries and is unable when pirates kidnap her and sell her to a whore house. Pericles is told she is dead. He goes into great despair. Marina refuses to give away her virtue and when men pay to lay with her they end up repenting and turning a new leaf including the governor of this land. Marina is sent to help those who lives are downtrodden when she is led to her father. They reveal to each who they are. Pericles grants the governor his daughter’s hand and they go to the temple of Diana to be wed. There they find Thalia Pericles’ thought to be dead wife. The end.
Two and a half hours of great storytelling. Many actors played multiple roles and all were great. Above all the music in the show was well written and had a very nautical sound. If I would change anything it would be the projections. At times they were distracting. A lot of them were for the sake of doing it and didn’t add to the action, but many of them were very useful.

[button link=””]Grade: A-[/button]

King Lear

The traffic into the city was fine until we reached the parking garage. I think I spent more time trying to get a parking spot between two lots than I did driving 30 miles to get to the city.
King Lear is two or three on my list of favorite Shakespeare plays behind Hamlet and perhaps Macbeth.  To me Lear is about altruism, I am excited to see how Barbara Gaines, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater Artistic Director and director of this production, attacks this show.
The set as you walk in is shiny with a regal red and gold Victorian style love seat in front of a shiny silver or aluminum wall.
The first act introduced Lear as pompous and full of himself.  Bored as the King and fading in sanity he bequeaths his kingdom prematurely to his three daughters.  His gift comes with a price as the daughters must regale their father with the amount of love that they have for the aged man.  Regan and Goneral both indulge but his favorite and youngest Cordelia won’t be a party of such nonsense and basically tells her father that she loves him no more or no less than she always has.  This angers Lear and he banishes her with nothing.
The Chicago Shakespeare Theater modernizes this production with modern weapons and furnishings, but keeping with the traditional and written text.  Larry Yando plays Lear with such reverence and deference in the beginning of the play he reminded me of the title character in the television show “House.”  His transformation to all powerful to feeble old man is really stunning and his choices are a masterclass in tactics. The direct opposite of Yando’s performance would be that of John Bynes as the Duke of Burgundy.  Why do I even mention such a small part?  Because everyone’s performance was so far above Bynes’.  His choices were trite and his delivery was lazy in comparison to the rest of the cast.
The set seemed to be a reuse of the the set from Henry V that they produced a few months ago with a large wall that crashes to the ground for the second half of the play.  It did serve its purpose but I expect more from Chicago Shakes when it comes to all aspects of the show. Overall director Gaines does a great job with this show.  In the end it leaves you feeling in awe that it has to be a tragedy.  That because Lear could not be as altruistic as his daughter, Cordelia she must die.
[button link=””]Grade: A[/button]

Henry V

This show was well directed.  That is why it received a B and not lower.  It is apparent that the director used the Saint Crispin’s Day speech as a concept for the play, because the idea of a band of brothers was used well.  However it seemed the actor playing Henry V, Harry Judge was in a very different production that was all about him.  Having known some that have worked with Judge in the past this is common for productions he is in.  I can understand the directors choice of him for Henry being selfish in the way that Shakespeare wrote the play, but I think Judge needed to make contact with his fellow actors and create moments with them and not worry about doing it on his own.

The actor that stole the show was Greg Vinkler playing both Ensign Pistol and King Charles VI.  The amount of play he put into Pistol in direct contrast to the stifled character of Charles proved to me that he deserves at least kudos for a job well done.  Most of the actors played duel roles and most did quite well except Samuel Taylor who in one of his roles played The Daupin and every time he spoke I wanted to climb on stage and muzzle him.  He did make choices, but those choices were bad and perhaps thats the director’s fault for not bringing him back to reality.  For him it seemed like he made the character a caricature when everyone else in the show was believable and real.

The best part of the show was the talk back at the end of the Wednesday matinee that I attended.  I got to learn a bunch about the the show and why some choices were made and some of the Shakespearean history.

[button link=””]Grade: B[/button]