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Central Park’s Shakespeare series plans two darkly comic stagings

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A few green leaves have been spotted in Manhattan in the last few days, despite a stubborn winter’s refusal to loosen its grip. We probably shouldn’t plan a picnic lunch in Central Park anytime soon, but a harbinger of warmer days came today with the Public Theater’s announcement of its 2011 Shakespeare in the Park shows.

Central Park's Delacorte Theater

This season, the Public turns to two of Shakespeare’s “problem plays”—works that can’t quite decide whether they’re comic, tragic, or melodramatic. “All’s Well That Ends Well” and “Measure for Measure” were both written in the early years of the 17th Century, quite late in William Shakespeare’s career. The two dramas also share a peculiar “bed trick” plot device–i.e., a mistaken-identity-in-the-boudoir episode. “Measure”—dealing with power, politics, and sexuality–is the darker of the two plays, and the better known. “All’s Well” is about a stubborn young woman who’ll do what it takes to marry the man who’s gained her (unrequited) love.

The plays will be presented in repertory fashion, by the same set of actors, including stars John Cullum (“On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” “Urinetown”) and Tonya Pinkins (“Jelly’s Last Jam,” “Caroline, or Change”). Two leading Broadway directors will stage the plays: Daniel Sullivan will take on “All’s Well”; David Esbjornson will tackle “Measure.”

The plays are set to run between June 6 and July 30 at the Delacorte Theater in the heart of Central Park.

Start praying to Thespis now to guard against summer thunderstorms.

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