There are multiple, major productions of Shakespeare in New York City every month through August, at least. Which raises the question Rosalind posed in "As You Like It" about other (bawdier) matters: "Can one desire too much of a good thing?"
Time was - when Joseph Papp was running through the full canon at the open-air Delacorte Theater in Central Park and at his downtown quarters - the Public Theater was the only reliable producer of Shakespeare in town. Oskar Eustis, the artistic director, sees not only "steady hunger for well-done Shakespeare" among audiences, but also a certain safety for troupes returning to him over and over in tough financial times.
"You know the writer isn't going to let you down, and that audiences will always come out for good Shakespeare," Eustis said.
To guard against complacency, Eustis is moving away from the great audience pleasers and delving into the less popular "problem plays." Two are on tap for the Delacorte this summer, "All's Well That Ends Well" and "Measure for Measure." A third, the "Timon" production of the Public Lab series, ended its run in March.
Barry Edelstein, the director of "Timon," said he had wanted to stage the play for years but didn't have a timely argument for it until the financial meltdown of 2008, given the play's allegorical plot of a man who gives away all his money and is deserted by false friends, only to happen upon new wealth that he uses toward his own ends.
Against the backdrop of multiple "Merchants" and "Macbeths," Edelstein said, "Timon" would "come across like a new play to people," yet also deliver insights into the human condition that theatergoers appreciate from the playwright."
Allan Buchman, artistic director of the Culture Project, said he was forming an all-female acting ensemble called the Troupe of Cordelia (for King Lear's youngest daughter) to "strive to make classical work new and fresh."
"Programming for the well-heeled cognoscenti," Buchman said, "promotes the perception that there are less resources for new writers and new work, resulting in talent migrating away from stage to seek more accessible, gainful employment elsewhere."
Spicing up Shakespeare is not new: St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn transformed the roofless Tobacco Warehouse nearby into a home for a production of "Macbeth: 2008."
"We don't do a lot of Shakespeare - I've said no to a bunch of ideas," said Susan Feldman, artistic director of St. Ann's. "I'm glad we're not doing any Shakespeare this year. The competition."