A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Devin Brain

Tony Award-Winning The Acting Company Brings "Macbeth" and "A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" to The MAC

Thursday, March 19, 2015 Cora

Tony Award-Winning The Acting Company in association with Tony Award Winning The Guthrie Theater will be making their only stop in Chicago at the McAninch Arts Center this weekend, staging two very different plays. On Friday March 20th, they perform William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” directed by Devin Brain (also of Chicago’s The Hypocrites). On Saturday March 21st, they perform “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” the newly commissioned adaptation by much-admired playwright Jeffrey Hatcher from Mark Twain’s novel and directed by Ian Belknap.

A scene from "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court". Picture by Heidi Bohnenkamp. It’s an interesting pair of plays to tour in repertory. “It’s nice to have the gate swing wide,” Belknap, who is also the Artistic Director of The Acting Company, shared. “Especially for the actors.” What’s unique about the adaptation is it is one of the only play versions of the “Connecticut Yankee”; there are movies and musicals, but not a play. Belknap worked closely with the playwright Hatcher (who wrote the screenplay for “Tuesdays with Morrie”). “In rehearsal, the pages would come right off the printer and the actors would read them for them for the first time,” said Belknap. Talk about hot off the presses! The play had its world debut February 18th. Audiences at the MAC will be some of the first to see it. The ninety minute performance will be fast-paced, high energy and full of laughs.
Ian Gould in "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court". Picture by Heidi Bohnenkamp. But there cannot be light without dark. Devin Brain has been in love with the play “Macbeth” since he was a teenager. Even one of his first tattoos was Macbeth’s line, “And damn’d be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!’” “I love this play, partially because it encompasses ideas and themes that I’m attracted to, such as the allure of violence and the dangerous borderlands of love and sacrifice, but also because it remains a mystery to me,” Brain said. “With a play like this there is a history, a tradition, that can’t be ignored, but neither must it be bowed to.”
Gabriel Lawrence and Suzy Kohane in "Macbeth". Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp Brain describes his rendition as “sleek and stark.” “I like spare and simple designs that allow room for imagination and manipulation,” he said. “Simple images that repeat and change over the course of the production, ritualistic elements that give the audience and performers the chance to transform the world for themselves.” He was also interested in the production being contemporary and archaic. He hopes to offer the audience a surprising moment of empathy for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. “Evil is not a state of mind,” he said. “It’s a series of terrible choices.”
Angela Janas and Gabriel Lawrence in "Macbeth". Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp I’m a Shakespeare fan, but there has always been something “scary” about “Macbeth” for me, something that made me uncomfortable. Brain succinctly put into words what I have been feeling: “This is a play whose horror lies not in the ghosts and spirit, but in the moment when we are confronted by the reality that we are all capable of murder. Dark desires live in the best of men and women, waiting only the decision to act upon them.” It will be a weekend of great theater, providing a safe space for great ideas, exploration, and escapism. Both directors are passionate and enchanted by their work as an explorer looks forward with curiosity and excitement to what is next. Audience members are in safe, capable hands. For tickets and more information about the performances visit AtTheMac.org. For more about the Acting Company, visit TheActingCompany.org

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