The plot revolves around a man named Bassanio and his courtship of a woman named Portia. Bassanio needs 3,000 ducats to be her suitor, and he borrows the money from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, with Bassanio’s merchant friend, Antonio, acting as guarantor on the loan. The terms are steep: If Bassanio can’t repay Shylock on the specified date, Shylock will take a pound of Antonio’s flesh.
The play has been set in pretty much every era and time period imaginable over the past 500 years; Southwest Shakespeare Company sets theirs in the U.S. during the late 1920s, presumably just prior to the Wall Street Crash of 1929 that helped trigger the Great Depression. Two rolling panel walls with doors and Art Deco windows, a faux marble floor and counter, braided columns, mannequin torsos draped in 1920 clothes, and a black chalkboard showing New York Stock Exchange rates set the stage for the talented cast of actors, and an oft-disturbing but always powerful story about prejudice, race, and religion.
There’s a lot to like about Arizona Theatre Company’s production of British playwright Mike Bartlett’s future history play “King Charles III.” The premise is interesting, the acting is fantastic, the aesthetic is appealing (albeit austere), and it explores the ideas of political power, personal responsibility, and the tangled interactions and personalities within the Royal Family in a way that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Every four years, two things happen: The United States holds a presidential election and the Summer Olympic Games take place. While election coverage has dominated the headlines for months on end, for a couple of weeks in August, five pint-sized powerhouses managed to distract us. They were the U.S. women gymnastic team at the Rio games, dubbed “The Final Five”: 2012 Olympians Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, along with first-time Olympians Madison Kocian, Laurie Hernandez and Simone Biles. We held our breath and marveled at every tumble and vault, twirl and landing. They were invincible and they stole our hearts.
Now that the Olympics are in the rearview mirror, the Five will take part in the 36-city Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, an exhibition of more than 30 gymnasts, including members of the men’s and women’s 2008, 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic teams as well as other world-class gymnasts. If you’re one of the many fans who caught Final Five fever this summer, you’ll have a chance to see them let loose in a non-competitive setting.
On Thursday, Sept. 22, the tour will stop at Gila River Arena in Glendale. Tickets start at $28.50 and go up to $143.50. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit kelloggstour.com.
Have you ever wanted to check out a ballet performance, but aren’t ready to shell out the dough for tickets? Don’t get me wrong – performing arts groups need paying patrons, but Ballet Arizona has been making it possible for Valley residents to get a taste of arabeques and pirouettes for free over the past 18 years in order to foster an appreciation of ballet as an art form.
“If Aphra Behn were here tonight, I hope she’d forgive our trespasses,” the groovy hippie chick says in the prologue, touching a white marble bust perched nobly next to a hot pink lava lamp with a zebra-striped base.
So opens Liz Duffy Adams’ play “Or,” in which there are many trespasses -- terrific trespasses and glorious liberties, which historical muse Aphra Behn, if she be anything like legend and this character portrayal, would no doubt forgive but downright appreciate. The play is an entertaining exploration of themes including identity and disguise, feminism and sexuality, and societal paradigms, built around a fascinating female figure from the literary canon and packed with witticisms and dashing dialogue. And Southwest Shakespeare Company’s production of “Or,” is a buoyant and brilliant testament to the talent of the company.
#1: Flight of the Conchords at Comerica Theatre, July 3
New Zealand's self-described “fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo a cappella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo” sings songs from their titular – and hugely popular – HBO sitcom. $39.50-$55. 8 p.m. July 3 at Comerica Theatre. comericatheatre.com
#1: Circus Xtreme at Talking Stick Resort Arena, June 23-26
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey goes to new extremes with this high-energy show featuring traditional elements of the circus combined with fast-paced performances and hilarious moments. Tigers, camels, dogs, acrobats, strongmen, bungee skydivers, BMX freestyle riders and clowns are among the stars. (text by Judy Harper) Tickets start at $20. Call for times. June 23-26 at Talking Stick Resort Arena. ringling.com/shows/circus-xtreme
Thomas Jefferson’s skill with a quill is legendary. His skill with a straight razor is underrated. During his presidency, he sliced the logical verses out of the New Testament and glued them into his personal gospel, leaving the miraculous mumbo jumbo behind in his holey Bible. For this he was damned to hell. Sort of.
In this delightfully brain-tickling dramedy, playwright Scott Carter – producer of “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher” – dooms Jefferson to a purgatorial room that resembles every writer’s hell: a blank page. Trapped with him are two gentlemen geniuses who also rewrote the gospel: Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy. To escape, they must reconcile their differences and jointly rewrite the Jesus story.
As anyone who’s spent countless hours perfecting a Match.com profile or braved a blind date that felt more like a job interview can attest, dating sucks. And what if you’re not the perfect blonde size-two? Prepare to receive more left swipes and painful jabs than a MMA rookie.
In a typical play it’s protocol
to safeguard the audience behind a fourth wall.
They’re impervious observers, aloof, apart.
Much like a lass named Prudencia Hart.
She’s old-fashioned, romantic,
Likes her Scots ballads folky.
Won’t sing karaoke.
But this play thrusts everyone into the melee
of a riotous, disorderly devil’s ceilidh –
unbuttoning, beguiling, emboldening Pru,
and along with the heroine... you.
Told largely in rhyming couplet, this touring National Theatre of Scotland production sloshes together soulful ballads, sing-a-longs, and the supernatural. It’s a full-bodied, whole-hearted, unforgettable experience.
Get your daily dose of culture with our curated picks of the best events and experiences in the Valley, from art and music to sports and the outdoors. Culture vultures can sign up for our Things to Do and VIP List newsletters for even more hip happenings.