In the midst of the live theater drought, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) introduces a new remedy: Pandemic Playhouse Entertainment (PPE). This initiative was described by Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte as being inspired by the old television shows of the 1950s and 60s such as Playhouse 90, Masterpiece Playhouse, and Philco Playhouse. Ms. Monte also explained that the STNJ will use their Main Stage at the F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre in Madison, NJ and then provide the productions through an online platform which audiences can purchase to see.
It is the Shakespeare Theatre’s hope that this approach will help author’s words continue to be heard and seen while also providing some employment for their company of actors and the creative team as well. Additionally, it is hoped that the income from this programming will help them to survive the pandemic.
If the first offering now available is any indication of what this series will provide, then STNJ should be able to accomplish their goals. The quality of the production is first rate. It is theater created on film for those who enjoy seeing theater presented in a first class manner. There is no doubt that the company has struck gold with what what they are doing.
First PPE Offering Now Available – Shaw, Shaw, Shaw
PPE launched their first production this week with three George Bernard Shaw plays which ran last summer at STNJ’s outdoor Back Yard Stage in Florham Park. The program is titled Shaw, Shaw, Shaw because it is made up of three one act plays by the playwright. For theater goers who were at the outdoor production or those who missed it, this is a good chance to see this set of plays with some new elements that would not have been available outdoors.
The sound for these productions is perfect so that the all important dialog is easily heard. Showing a play on film allows close ups of each character and expressions that are crucial to getting the full meaning of what is being said are possible. The filming of each of the plays provides close ups as well as expansive views of the scene. The sets are well designed and the costumes are first rate. The ensemble company does an outstanding job of giving life to their characters.
In some ways, PPE is like going to the theater right in your own home with all the quality of acting and production that STNJ is so well known for. I went to the Back Yard Stage to see Shaw, Shaw, Shaw. I enjoyed seeing it again through the PPE. The enhanced visuals and sound gave me an entirely different perspective on the plays.
The Three Plays
The three works by George Bernard Shaw are good selections to use to open this new Entertainment source. Bonnie J. Monte directs. Each play is light with just enough humor in spots to give viewers an enjoyable experience. The three plays are Overruled – Passion, Poison and Petrifaction or The Fatal Gazogene – and Village Wooing.
Overruled takes place on a ship out to sea for a pleasure cruise where two couples flirt with each other. It is a fast paced look at how men and women look at and regard each other. It runs approximately 42 minutes.
Passion, Poison and Petrifaction or The Fatal Gazogene is the lightest and perhaps the most whimsical of the three. It involves some slapstick comedy as an impending thunder storm approaches. It runs approximately 20 minutes.
The third play, Village Wooing, is thought to be the best known of the three. It covers three conversations that take place over a one year period between a man and a woman. They initially meet on a luxury ocean liner and eventually meet again in a small village and then a small village shop. The female character eventually wins out with what she wants. And the man is willing, eventually! This play runs just under an hour.
Accessing These Plays
Tickets to the individual plays cost $10, and a package containing all three Shaw plays will run $25. Tickets are on sale at www.ShakespeareNJ.org, or patrons may call the Box Office at (973) 408-5600 for more information.
Be sure to indulge your theater appetite with a visit to the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s Pandemic Playhouse Entertainment offerings. View the productions on your computer or get technology savvy and transmit to a nice big screen television set right in your own home. Turn the lights down, pull up a glass of your favorite beverage, relax, and enjoy.
TOP PHOTO: Overruled by George Bernard Shaw. Directed by Bonnie J. Monte. Pictured, from left to right: Billie Wyatt and Christian Frost. Photo by Avery Brunkus.