Tug of War:
Civil Strife

Henry VI Parts 2 and 3, Richard III

September 14

October 9, 2016

at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

by William Shakespeare
adapted and directed by Barbara Gaines

Critical Acclaim

Acclaim for Tug of War: Civil Strife

Chicago Tribune
This binge-watchable project had passionate magnitude... and there is a veritable fleet of top-tier actors here. I greatly admire Gaines’ achievement. Her overarching notion of creating two lengthy theatrical experiences around Foreign Fire and Civil Strife was deftly conceived and fully complementary to Gaines’ lifelong mission of popularizing, contemporizing, clarifying and Americanizing the Bard of Stratford-Upon-Avon for the citizens of the city-state of Chicago, Illinois and thereabouts. We are lucky to have an artist in our midst who wishes to speak so directly to us. These shows have emerged as a very full portrait of one of Chicago's most notable artists. She works here with coherence, passion, skin in the game, openness and a crystal-clear point of view. Worthy, indeed, of a city's respect.” Read full review

Chicago Sun-Times
“Highly recommended... an artistic coup. In the sheer monumentality of its vision, and the stark brilliance of its execution, director Barbara Gaines' Tug of War: Civil Strife—a six-hour pairing of two rarely produced plays (Henry VI, Parts 2 & 3), with the widely familiar Richard III—has few rivals. And viewed alongside last spring’s Foreign Fire, Gaines’ first installment in this epic examination of the nature of leadership, political chicanery and the seemingly endless bloody quest for the English throne, it would be difficult to think of a more vivid way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, or to demonstrate the enduring accuracy of the Bard’s view of human nature, and the mad persistence of war. Gaines’ love affair with Shakespeare, and her undying belief in his plays' ability to speak to us now, never wavers. And these two epics might well be her crowning achievement.” Read full review

Tug of War streamlines Shakespeare's game of thrones... and one need not have caught the first half of this extravaganza to enjoy binge watching its sequel.

An action-packed, rock music-ridden pageant of hubris and chutzpah. As she unleashes the dogs of war (18 of Chicago’s terrific thespians), Barbara Gaines rightfully and purposefully condenses six of the Bard’s history plays into an action lesson in self-defeating slaughter.”

“The history plays beg for some consideration as a whole. Nearly all modern productions of Shakespeare cut the plays. What is cut reflects the company's position on what is essential to the play-or, in this case, plays. Barbara Gaines, the primary force behind the series, is a pacifist, so she thinks the deep futility of war is the most important (and relevant) aspect of these plays. She is right to find in Shakespeare an understanding that war poisons all social relationships.

Acclaim for the first installment of Tug of War: Foreign Fire

The Guardian (UK)
Tug of War, a gripping take on the history plays, is rocking Chicago. A bold and magnificent venture… this is Shakespeare staged with a purpose, and further proof that his history plays speak to us more urgently than ever. The Chicago histories are the brainchild of Barbara Gaines, who has the bright-eyed fervor of the cultural pioneer. Gaines takes Shakespeare’s histories and, by skillful cutting and adapting, finds in them a deeply political echo of modern America’s obsession with foreign wars. Does it all work? Absolutely.” Read full review

Wall Street Journal
Boldly drawn, slashingly direct and as fast-moving as an arrow whizzing toward its target... It’s all-American Shakespeare in the best possible sense, at once unabashedly populist in style and unswervingly serious in artistic purpose. Suffice it to say that Ms. Gaines has put together a cast adorned by some of Chicagoland’s most distinctive actors. All move from role to role with unflappable aplomb, changing characters as a mere mortal might change hats. ” Read full review

Chicago Sun-Times
Highly recommended!Chicago Shakespeare’s monumental, brilliantly interlocking three-play history saga… is, to be sure, no ordinary, standard-issue Shakespeare. For her impeccably clear, fast-paced, handsomely staged production, Gaines has assembled a cast of 19 superb actors and musicians who transform themselves in countless ways over the course of the three plays. The ensemble work is superb. So is Scott Davis’ heavily scaffolded, machine-of-war set, Anthony Pearson’s magnificent lighting and Susan Mickey’s punkish costumes. All in all, a massive work of immense artistry and passion that will be followed this fall by its sequel, Civil Strife.” Read full review

Chicago Tribune
This is far and away the most ambitious offering in the history of Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Why shouldn't a vibrant Shakespeare theater in Chicago take a stand against inherited power? Why leave all that to Hamilton? Gaines sees three dramas that collectively reveal the ridiculous reasons whereby the powerful start wars: Sexual jealousy. Personal pique. Even more personal ambition. Control. Power. Everything is involving. Thanks to some very fine actors, you see the pain that haunts Gaines, voiced in Shakespeare's tongue. In Tug of War she's offered up a potent point of view that's not out of place in this Hamilton moment, when kings and princes are seen, at least on this side of the Atlantic, as perennially failing to live up to their duties as lineal watchmen of our peace.” Read full review

A searing theatrical experience. Barbara Gaines, the founding director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, has long wondered what the history plays would look like if performed in the order of the events being treated. What better time to try out this notion than the 2016 Shakespeare year? The insanity of war is her theme, yet it does not become monotonous, since the humans trapped in it are portrayed with individuality and even with tenderness.”

Magnificent! Since we're binge-watching everything else, why leave Shakespeare out? We shouldn't, at least when the results are as compelling as Tug of War. Featuring a multiracial, gender-bending cast of 19 exceptional performers taking on more than 100 roles, Gaines' production throws down the gauntlet for any company inclined to shy away from the histories. Shakespeare's greatest history play has never resonated with me the way it did when seeing Henry V sandwiched here by Edward III and Henry VI, Part 1.”

Adaptor/director Barbara Gaines’ magnum opus is poetry at full throttle. It offers a sprawling look at clashing dynasties and power politics. It’s also a stunning showcase for 19 of Chicago’s keenest actors, playing over 100 parts and conferring an intimacy on history that refreshes and astonishes alike. The sheer scope of Tug of War is equaled by its dramatic depth. Gaines’s fusion of the political and the personal powers Shakespeare’s plays and reignites a crowd’s imaginations. ”

The Guardian
“The thrilling trilogy of Shakespeare’s history plays has been distilled, adapted and directed by Barbara Gaines into a soaring, searing, exhilarating epic experience.  The extravagant scope is so exceptional that it deserved every bit of the audience’s enthusiastic applause. Indeed, this is such a captivating show that I’m looking forward to Chicago Shakespeare’s presentation of Civil Strife, in the fall.”

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Civil Strife

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