Will and I | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Michael York is best known for his more or less contemporary characters in such films as Cabaret, Logan's Run, and the Austin Powers movies (he plays Mike Myers's spymaster). But the lean, sharp-featured 57-year-old English actor, whose elegant voice blends seductive softness and sharp-minded steeliness, got his start in Shakespearean drama. He made his London stage debut in Franco Zeffirelli's 1965 National Theatre production of Much Ado About Nothing (the cast also included Albert Finney, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, and Lynn Redgrave), and shortly thereafter Zeffirelli cast him in his film versions of The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet (in which he was an unforgettably tempestuous Tybalt). Now, for the one-man show Will and I, York returns to his Bardic roots. The performance will juggle selections from what York called in a phone interview "the inexhaustible treasures" of Shakespeare's plays and poems with anecdotes about his career and technical tips on how to handle the demands of Shakespearean drama, from parsing the poetry to swinging the swords. Both require preparation and flexibility, York noted: for the duel in Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, he and costar Leonard Whiting "had rehearsed every move--we could do it in our sleep. But on the day of filming, Zeffirelli's genius was to choose a gravel street, not at all like the flat place where we'd rehearsed. We were falling and tumbling with dust blowing up around us...it was crazy and filthy, and it paid off." Will and I is the opening attraction of Benedictine University's "Shakespeare in the Park" festival (see Theater listing for full information); viewers are encouraged to bring blankets or chairs since they'll be seated on the lawn (preshow picnickers can purchase refreshments or bring their own). As for a Benedictine press release that exploited York's Austin Powers fame by proclaiming that "Michael York turns from shagging to Shakespeare," the actor just laughed, saying "Shakespeare loved bawdy humor too." Benedictine University, 5700 College Rd., Lisle, 630-829-6161 or 888-223-6000. Wednesday, August 18, 8:30 PM. $25 (call for information about all-day packages that include a workshop with York before the show). --Albert Williams

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