Then Let Men Know: A Portrait of Shakespeare's Women | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Then Let Men Know: A Portrait of Shakespeare's Women

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William Shakespeare's been good to Claire Bloom--she was launched as a star at age 21 in Romeo and Juliet at London's Old Vic in 1952--and Bloom's been good to him too. In this one-woman dramatic reading she focuses on some of his most interesting, complex characters: her Juliet is famous for its radiance and strength, and she also delivers the goods with Othello's Desdemona, Coriolanus's Volumnia, Julius Caesar's Portia, Henry VIII's Catherine of Aragon, and Twelfth Niqht's Viola. These are women bound, for better or worse (usually for worse--that's tragedy for you), by love, marriage, motherhood, or social or familial obligation. To probe the personalities of her heroines, Bloom places them in context: rather than settling for a series of soliloquies, she plays multiple roles in scenes from each of the plays--or, in the case of Romeo and Juliet, in a telescoped version of the full tragedy. Dressed in a simple black outfit and working from behind a podium, the actress who shaped her dramatic skills playing opposite Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Charles Chaplin, Richard Burton, John Neville, and other masters creates entire worlds and fully developed relationships. At the Ravinia Festival, June 17 (Murray Theatre, Lake Cook and Green Bay roads, Highland Park, 312-728-4642). Monday, 8 PM. $25; lawn seating, $5.

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