One of the great pleasures of summer for the Southern California theatre lover is traveling down to San Diego to take in the Summer Shakespeare Festival at the Old Globe. For the last six years the Festival has been under the Artistic Directorship of that Yugoslavian-born but American-raised theatrical dynamo Darko Tresnjak. He has accomplished the extraordinary in the face of economic stress and audience lethargy.
In the time he was Artistic Director of the Festival, Tresnjak presented 17 Shakespeare plays, along with one non-Shakespeare (this year’s Cyrano De Bergerac). What a fitting play on which to exit the Festival, the story of the ultimate romantic character who gives voice to others' desires, exactly what a director does for playwrights. Bravo to Darko for his contributions.
Now to the plays this season: Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see Coriolanus, at least not yet. But what I did see were two beautifully rendered performances of Cyrano (directed by Darko) and a fresh and very funny Twelfth Night (directed by Paul Mullins).
Cyrano is, for me, one of the greatest works of dramatic literature, capturing the very nature of romance as selfless, brave, and poetic. The playwright Edmond Rostand based the play on an actual person who, like his fictional counterpart, was rumored to have fought off 100 men in a single skirmish.
Darko has put together a beautiful production with elegant staging and a mighty performance by Patrick Page, who must be considered one of America’s greatest living classical actors. Page has previously used his sense of the epic, his glorious imagination, and his beautiful voice as the Grinch in Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, as Scar in The Lion King, as Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast, as Decius Brutus in Julius Caesar (with Denzel Washington), and most recently as Henry VIII in A Man For All Seasons. All of these were on Broadway, but he has also done scores of classical roles in regional theatre across America.