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Stratford 2014 Shakespeare Festival presents a season for madness

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association and Cleveland Critics Circle)


The 2014 Stratford Festival’s theme is “Madness:  Minds Pushed to the Edge,” and includes more than 150 debates, concerts, workshops, and, of course, theater, theater, and more theatre.  The play offerings examine the madness of love, family, power, war, desire and money!


Though the snow and cold weather are still swirling, in some cases due to the frigid Canadian weather which they graciously share with Americans, those people up north, also, when spring and summer come, offer wonderful accommodations, good food, unusual shopping, and theatre, theatre and more theater, in Stratford, Ontario, Canada.


This season’s 12 productions in the Festival’s four theatres are:


KING LEAR (May 5-October 10)—In this Shakespeare classic, an aging monarch resolves to divide his kingdom between this three daughter, with consequence he little expects.  In the process he discovers the essence of his own humanity.


CRAZY FOR YOU (April 21-October 12)–The George and Ira Gershwin musical that gave the world such songs as, “I Got Rhythm,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”


A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM (May 16-October 11)—Shakespeare’s comedy about Hermia, who elopes with her lover Lysander, and is pursued by a rival suitor , Demetrius, and jos  spurned admirer, Helena.  It’s a tale of love’s giddiest lunacy.


THE BEAUX STATAGEM (JULY 31-OCTOBER 11)—George Farquhar’s tale of larcenous lovers who realize that their hearts might be susceptible to ensnarement.


MAN OF LAMANCHA (May 8-October 11)—“Dream the Impossible Dream” as you are taken on the mythical journey of Don Quixote in a mythical reenactment of the Miguel de Cervantes enduring and endearing tale.


ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS (April 30-October 12)—Climb through the living-room mirror with Alice as she enters a world of wonders populated by “fantastical” characters and dreams of the mind.


HAY FEVER (May 28-October 11)—Noël Coward’s  witty tale of a stage star, novelist husband and two grown children who have each invited guests for the weekend which results in flirtations and histrionics.  Will they survive the weekend with their sanity intact?


KING JOHN (May 21-September 20)—Yes, Shakespeare’s mad world of mad kings highlights the inevitable war, excommunications, attempted atrocities, rebellion and assassination that results when the King of France demands that King John of England relinquish his crown.


MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN (May 15-September 21)—Bertolt Brecht’s compelling tale of what happens when Mother Courage, who sells provisions to both Protestant and Catholic combatants during the Thirty Years’ War, discovers that the very chaos that sustains her will eventually cost her everything she holds most dear.


ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (August 3-September 20)—Reason and judgement prove no match for the tsunami of mutual passion engulfing Mark Antony and Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s tale of the love that shook the very foundation of the world.


CHRISTINA, THE GIRL KING (July 29-September 21)—Michel Marc Bouchard’s tale of Queen Christina who seeks to make her country the most sophisticated in Europe, but her goals put her at odds with her culture’s expectations of her, both as a monarch and as a woman.


MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, a chamber play (July 11-September 20)—Two couples become gods, animals, demons, monsters, children, playing things in Shakespeare’s classic masterpiece about our multiple selves and conflicted identities.


What’s the lodging like?  Hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts abound to fit any wallet.  I like a b & b.  You get to meet new people and there is a nice friendly feel of being more than a guest.   My favorite is the Avery House (


Hungry?  For moderate cost and high quality, try The Annex Cafe (38 Albert Street) and the Stratford Thai Cuisine (82 Wellington Street).


Theater and housing packages can be arranged by   Stratford Escapes (, is an efficient way to make reservations.  For individual tickets call 800-567-1600 or go on-line to


Helpful hints: The ride from Cleveland is about six hours through Buffalo.  Go on-line to the festival for directions.  The routings offered by AAA and Yahoo maps are confusing and miles longer.  To satisfy border requirements carry your passport.  Nothing else will do.


Go to Stratford, Canada!  Find out what lovely hosts Canadians are, and see some great theatre!