Bard Games

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By contrast, TheatreWorks in Colorado Springs, which, like the CSF, employs a mix of students, community actors and Equity guest artists, recently completed a successful run of the Bard's difficult revenge tragedy, Titus Andronicus. Led by James Gale's splendid rendering of the title character, whose volatile mixture of calculated mania, murderous rage and abject despair has proved the undoing of many a veteran performer, the plucky troupe conveyed the solemnity of a play that typically provokes fits of inappropriate laughter. The character of Lavinia, for instance, is raped, mutilated and later forced to hold a dismembered human hand between her teeth. But amid the episodes of near-Monty Python-like carnage, actress Shaundra Noll's portrait was heartrending, quietly lyrical and beyond her performer's years. And despite the drama's stilted verse, abundance of plot contrivances and, at a recent performance, a driving rainstorm that threatened to swamp the group's circus-tent home, the accomplished ensemble delivered a chillingly believable production. Director Murray Ross's approach was innovative in the same way that classic fashions and tastes periodically resurface as each generation's freshly minted inventions. Always relying on Shakespeare's text as their guide, Ross and company lent insight and immediacy to a centuries-old tale while maintaining integrity of style and dignity of tone--qualities that, in its heyday, the CSF once held dear.

The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV, Part Two, presented by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival through August 14 at the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre and University Indoor Theatre, CU-Boulder, 303-492-0554.

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Jim Lillie