'As You Like It' in Evanston, times two

July 19, 2011

Here's an occurrence custom-designed to make any managing director pull out his/her hair: you're doing a fabulous production of Shakespeare's As You Like It in your adorable space at the Evanston Arts Depot, and the audiences are responding. Then--poof!--comes an announcement that another company will do a [presumably fabulous] production of As You Like It at an equally adorable space in Evanston. And they'll do it for free.

This is the situation facing Two Pence Shakespeare, whose delightful As . . . opened at the space next to the Metra last weekend. All's well (if you'll forgive me) til August 6, when Muse of Fire opens its own version.

Fortunately, the two productions have much to distinguish them: Muse of Fire performs Saturday and Sunday afternoons only, out under the clear blue sky in Ingraham Park (behind Evanston's Civic Center on Ridge Avenue). So it's indoor-evenings-$20-through August 13 or outdoor-days-free-8/6 to 8/27.

Everyone will survive, of course, but it's still a shame to have companies go head to head like that. The League of Chicago Theaters keeps an opening-night calendar designed to prevent exactly this, and it's been so successful that I'm aware of only one overlap in the past ten years (two excellent productions of The Lion in Winter whose excellence probably didn't prevent their cannibalizing one another). A quick check of such a calendar would enable someone to substitute Much Ado or All's Well or another one of the ones no one can remember which one they are, before unfair head-to-head competition arises.

The good news is, Two Pence's production closes on August 13, meaning the direct competition will only last a week.  And think of it this way: everything in Evanston will be as you like it all summer long.