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Of the artistic havocwrought by the coronavirus pandemic, among the most grievous losses was the cancellation of American Players Theatre’s 2020 season. Located in Spring Green, the rural Wisconsin village that is also home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, APT is little known outside Wisconsin but universally admired by well-traveled theater buffs for the consistent excellence of its productions. A 13-actor resident “Core Acting Company” augmented by summer-only artists performs classics and modern masterpieces in two spaces, a 1,089-seat outdoor amphitheater atop a wooded hill and a handsome 200-seat indoor house….
For all these reasons, it is a pleasure to report that APT has staked out a significant online presence with “Out of the Woods,” a six-installment series of play readings that are streamed live every Friday—the last one goes up on July 17—and will be available for viewing through July 26. The performances feature the core company and other APT regulars, all of whom are appearing from their separate homes via Zoom….
Of the “Out of the Woods” readings that I’ve seen to date, the most comprehensively satisfying was a performance of George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man” directed by William Brown, an APT veteran who is familiar elsewhere for his sterling work with Chicago’s Writers Theatre….
One reason why this production comes off so well is that Shaw’s plays, this one very much included, are conversation pieces full of witty talk that lends itself to a stripped-down, dialogue-driven presentation….
“Julius Caesar” is an inescapably trickier proposition—not because Stephen Brown-Fried’s staging is any less resourceful but because Shakespeare’s play contains action-based scenes, in particular the assassination of Caesar (Brian Mani), whose visceral impact can only be hinted at in a socially distanced reading….
These qualifications notwithstanding, this “Julius Caesar” is still immensely watchable…
* * *Read the whole thing here.