Summer Theater Preview | the new yorker


At forty-four, writer and performer Danai Gurira has had an exceptionally broad career. In 2005, she and Nikkole Salter created their play for two women, “In the Continuum”, on the balance sheet of the AIDS crisis on black women in Africa and the United States, and in 2016, Lupita Nyong’o starred in a Broadway production of Gurira’s play “Eclipsed,” set during Liberia’s second civil war. Meanwhile, Gurira broke out as an actress in AMC’s zombie apocalypse series “The Walking Dead” and joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in “Black Panther” as Wakandan warrior Okoye. This summer, she’s adding a twist to her unique resume as one of Shakespeare’s most malevolent men. At the free public theater Shakespeare in the Park, Gurira plays in “Richard III” (from previews June 17, at the Delacorte), directed by Robert O’Hara.

The sixtieth anniversary season of Shakespeare in the Park continues with the return of Shaina Taub and Laurie Woolery’s frenzied musical adaptation of “As You Like It” (August 10), as part of the community initiative for public works. At the Park Avenue Armory, two other classics are revisited. Modern adaptations of Shakespeare by Robert Icke “Hamlet” (June 1) and Aeschylus Oresteia (June 9) are performed in the repertoire by a British ensemble led by Alex Lawther (as Hamlet) and Lia Williams (as Klytemnestra). On Broadway, Giles Croft directs “The Kite Runner” (Hayes, July 6), Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel, which follows the lives of two childhood friends through decades of upheaval in Afghanistan.

Off-Broadway attractions include “Between the lines” (Tony Kiser Theatre, June 14), a new musical from Elyssa Samsel, Kate Anderson and Timothy Allen McDonald, based on the novel by Jodi Picoult and her daughter, Samantha van Leer, about a girl who finds refuge far from reality in his book. Will Arbery, who wrote the famous “Heroes of the Fourth Turning”, returns with “Corsica” (Playwrights Horizons, June 2), directed by Sam Gold, in which a woman with Down syndrome and her half-brother bond with a local artist after the death of their mother.

Anyone who’s seen the six-hour “Gatz,” the riveting version of “The Great Gatsby” from the elevator repair service, knows that a new ERS take on a classic text is worth noting. The premieres of the troupe “Seagull” (NYU’s Skirball Center, July 7), a meta-theatrical adaptation of Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” directed by John Collins. Another eye-catching experimental work necessitates a trip upstate: the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival production of “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Piece” (in Garrison, NY, starting July 8). First presented in 2012, this ancient and epic comedy, written by Anne Washburn and the late composer Michael Friedman, imagines a post-apocalyptic world in which an episode of “The Simpsons” sparks an unlikely new oral tradition; Davis McCallum directs. At the Williamstown Theater Festival, Daniel Fish, the director behind the recent reimagining of “Oklahoma!”, sets his sights on another mid-century musical, Frank Loesser’s “The Most Happy Fella.” “Happier in concert” (starting July 13 on the main stage) features an all-female, non-binary cast. ♦

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