Tug Of War: Foreign Fire

Edward III, Henry V, Henry VI, Part 1

May 11

June 12, 2016

at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

by William Shakespeare
adapted and directed by Barbara Gaines

Critical Acclaim

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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