Shakespeare season kicks off today.
Yes, we’re all a little anxious to see Oscar Isaac take on the role of “Hamlet” this summer, but you’ll have to keep it in your pants for a little longer. Until then, we’ve rounded up all the gender-swapping, boozy and outlandish Shakespearean productions
Shakespeare in the Park is the Public Theater’s marquee event, but getting tickets can be a pain, and Central Park isn’t convenient for everyone. To bring free theater to all five boroughs, the theater’s Mobile Shakespeare Unit will visit parks, community centers and even prisons to stage its all-too-relevant take on Shakespeare’s comedy about hidden identities: Viola is reimagined as a late-1990s Cuban immigrant who must start a new life in buzzing, music-filled Florida. All shows — including the usual post-tour run at the Public — are free in honor of the mobile unit’s 60th anniversary. March 30-May 14 various locations publictheater.org
What happens when one member of a Shakespeare cast starts the show with five shots of whiskey? “Drunk History” showed us that being a little tipsy doesn’t necessarily hurt your performance, and there’s a whole cast of clever pros ready with a little improv to help the unlucky drunkard slurring “Macbeth” or another of the major plays (the show changes). Set in The Lounge, which has been converted into a library, some of the audience is seated right onstage with the actors — with the option to drink in moderation. Through Jan. 27, 2018, 21+ 300 W. 43rd St., Level 2 drunkshakespeare.com
For a more traditional, but no less dynamic, interpretation of the play, London’s National Theater has been the place where classics get a stunning, faithful staging. The “National Theater Live” series has made it possible to see these productions without a plane ticket by filming performances to screen in theaters. Their camerawork is exquisite, often getting closer than even the live audience. April 6-May 25 various locations ntlive.com
Shakespeare Sonnet Slam
Because some people are just obnoxiously talented, Shakespeare wrote some of the best love poems, too. For the seventh year, Central Park is hosting a poetry slam where all 154 of the Bard’s sonnets will be performed — interpretations welcome — by people of all ages ranging from amateurs to professionals. You may even see a Broadway or movie star give it a shot. Apr. 21 Naumburg Bandshell centralpark.com
Gender-swapping is the trend of the moment to give old stories a new perspective. This time it’s the itinerant Princess Hal making life difficult for King Henry, who’s already having a hard enough time securing his legacy trying to control a rebellion. The nonprofit, inclusive troupe Hamlet Isn’t Dead is mashing up Parts 1 and 2 into one irreverent, live rock music-infused production. May 3-7 Westbeth Artists Community, 55 Bethune St. hamletisntdead.com
Shakespeare in the Park
This year’s dual bill in Central Park, presented free as always by the Public Theater, leads with a play that couldn’t be more relevant: “Julius Caesar,” about the rise of a popular leader who’s morphing into a tyrant. It’s the first time the play has been seen at the Delacorte Theater in 17 years, and The Public’s own artistic director, Oskar Eustis, will direct. Later in the summer will be the lighter fare of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” May 23-June 18; July 11-Aug. 13 shakespeareinthepark.org “Measure for Measure” After winning accolades for his direction of “Hamlet” by the Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theater associate director Simon Godwin comes to Brooklyn’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center, where he’s crafting an appropriately unsettling rendition of this disturbing comedy of sexual politics. June 13-July 16 262 Ashland Place tfana.org
No one stretches Shakespeare to its limits like Theater 2020. Case in point: last year’s production of “The Real Merry Wives of Windsor, CT” which ditched some of the dated gender-based comedy for slapstick and a thoroughly delightful sendup of reality TV. In their spring production of “Macbeth,” the troupe will take a serious tone, but swaps the dreary moors of Scotland for the South Pacific and adds in some witchcraft and sorcery. Dates TBA First Unitarian Church 116 Pierrepont St., Brooklyn theater2020.com
Get into the spirit (get it?) at one of Drunk Shakespeare’s irreverent productions, where one person faces the acting challenge of their life every night.
Free Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater
The Public Theater Mobile Unit’s “Twelfth Night”
Shakespeare Sonnet Slam