In the Hudson Valley, Shakespeare as Man, Myth and Drinking Buddy

Shakespeare had an answer for that, of course: Poetry. Remember the “summer’s day” sonnet? “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,/ So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” For these men and their families, Shakespeare’s words themselves are the answer, long outliving and yet immortalizing anyone who acted them. “Publish or vanish,” is how Henry puts it.

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Kerry Warren, left, and Krystel Lucas in “Twelfth Night.”

Credit
T Charles Erickson

But if these words — or, if you’re Hamlet, “words, words, words” — are the inspiration for Ms. Gunderson’s play, they are also its problem. Though she uses a largely contemporary vocabulary, she often tries to give her language a Jacobean touch that’s not exactly credible, as when Richard Burbage (the spirited Stephen Paul Johnson) remarks, “what cold wind blows when mice attempt to play lions,” a mixed metaphor that clangs on the ear.

There’s more and worse, and nothing that approaches the way that Shakespeare’s lines compel emotion and command action. But twitting a playwright for not being Shakespeare is blatantly unfair, so it’s best to leave the rest unquoted. Besides, if Ms. Gunderson isn’t a poet, she is a persuasive, feeling writer with an assertive command of structure and a punchy way with individual scenes.

She is lucky in Mr. McCallum (“The Harvest”), who gives her a lively, humane production that trots briskly through the text. Helped by Eric Southern’s lighting design, Mr. McCallum knows how to use the tented stage’s backdrop — a lush lawn plunging down toward the river — to best effect, and also how to make what’s happening onstage exciting enough that you forget the view. Ms. Gunderson is also well served by much of the cast, particularly Mr. McNall, an…

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