The Illinois Shakespeare Festival continues its 37th season with Elizabeth Rex, Timothy Findley‘s award-winning examination of love, perception, and gender roles in Elizabethan England. Starring Deborah Staples as Queen Elizabeth, the production opens tonight, July 8, at the Theatre at Ewing.
Directed by Paula Suozzi, Christopher Prentice also stars as Ned Lowenscroft, the “greatest actor of women” in Shakespeare’s company. Festival fave Thomas Anthony Quinn plays the keenly observant Will Shakespeare.
According to press notes: “This brilliant, award-winning play imagines Queen Elizabeth spending the eve of her lover’s execution in the company of William Shakespeare and his players. Seeking distraction from her grief, she watches Much Ado About Nothing and afterward, banters with Ned, the actor who played Beatrice, about his playing a woman, and her playing a man. Meanwhile, Shakespeare is writing a new play called Antony and Cleopatra – about a Queen’s tragic affair with her lover – which Elizabeth finds suspiciously familiar.”
The company also includes Matt Daniels as Jack Edmund, Norman Moses as Percy Gower, Fredric Stone as Luddy Beddoes, Natalie Blackman as Kate Tardwell, Colin Lawrence as Harry Pearle, Michael Pine as Matt Welles, Faith Servant as Lady Mary Stanley, Robert Michael Johnson as Lord Robert Cecil, Jack Dwyer as Tom, Ron Román as Ben, Cyndee Brown as Countess Henslowe, and Ian Scarlato as the Bear. Timuchin Aker, Joey Banks, Wigasi Brant, Bethany Hart, and Colin Trevino-Odell round out the ensemble.
Live music is played by Adrienne Boni, Michelle Plunkett, and Pamela Schuett.
Elizabeth Rex features costume design by Lauren M. Lowell, scenic design by Kristin Ellert, lighting design by Sarah EC Maines, music by Shannon Marie O’Neill, and choreography by Jean Kerr. J. Andrew Blevins is the stage manager.
Elizabeth Rex runs in rep with Much Ado About Nothing and Antony and Cleopatra through Aug. 8.