The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey was hammered by COVID at the end of the 2021 season and forced to cancel the last few performances of its holiday hit, A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Bloodied but not beaten, the regional theater will roar back in 2022 with a full schedule of indoor and outdoor productions, starting June 8 with Enchanted April.
The opening of the season is usually early May. “We are not pushing back the season a month because of the COVID problem. There are several factors for the pushback, and COVID is one of them, but not the sole one,” said Sarah Haley, the theater’s marking director.
Enchanted April, which runs from June 8 until June 26, is the Matthew Barber story, based on the novel by Elizabeth Van Arnim’s of two bored 1920s British housewives who want to rent a home in romantic Italy for the summer. To meet the rent, they recruit two difficult, upper class women as roommates. The fearsome foursome bicker and squabble at first but then start to bond – until some men arrive.
Next, the theater will present The Metromaniacs (August 17 – September 4). It is a very campy comedy about French society in the 1700s. It was adapted from Alex Piron’s La Metromanie and pokes fun at just about everybody. It was adapted by David Ives from the original French.
Harold Pinter’s acclaimed play The Caretaker opens September 21 and runs through October 9. It is the often produced story of the evolving relationship between two brothers and a homeless man brought home by one who seems to find fault with everything and everybody. The play ran for 444 performances in London and became a movie in 1963 starring Alan Bates, Donald Pleasance and Robert Shaw.
Next are two plays by Alice Childress, the author of Mojo: A Black Love Story (1970) and When the Rattlesnake Sounds (1975), among others, from October 26 to November 13. Childress was one of the nation’s most prestigious black authors. She wrote 13 plays and six novels over a nearly 40 year long career.
William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (December 7 – January 1) rounds out the schedule for the indoor stage. On its outdoor stage at Saint Elizabeth’s University, the company will produce Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, (June 20-July 31). The theater also plans to offer its annual series of staged readings at its indoor stage throughout the year.
“We were going to produce some of these plays, such as Metromaniacs, in the 2020 season, that never took place because of the Pandemic. We’re very happy to stage them now,” said Haley, who added that the play lineup represents the usual Shakespeare and non-Shakespeare mix.
The theater will continue is policy of mandating masks and vaccination cards for patrons. “It is successful for us. All the Broadway theaters have that policy, too,” added Haley.