Shakespeare for the Masses returns with “King John”

Brooke Hardman Ditchfield, left, and Christopher Brophy perform in a past production of "Twelfth Night." — Photo courtesy of Nicole Galland

Shakespeare for the Masses, The Vineyard Playhouse’s off-season theater troupe, begins its fifth season this weekend with a script-in-hand staging of “King John” at the Katharine Cornell Theatre. Christopher Brophy is in the title role.

As usual with Shakespeare for the Masses, the adaptation is short, funny, and physically lively (the play includes three elaborate on-stage battles).

“King John” is Shakespeare’s most obscure history play, but it’s very timely for election season. The story concerns itself with the conflict over who is the rightful ruler of England: John himself, or his young nephew, Arthur (spoiler alert: things do not go well for Arthur). Each candidate has his die-hard supporters, but the toxic, dysfunctional campaign is ultimately controlled by special-interest lobbies (read: the Catholic Church). A number of characters, including Arthur’s mother Constance and John’s mother Elinor of Aquitaine, make the presidential campaign’s election managers look like wusses.

Even Shakespeare’s original script has a sense of the absurd to it, and Shakespeare for the Masses’ mission is go deeper into that absurdity. Expect a very cheeky re-interpretation of Shakespeare’s own “game of thrones.”

While The Vineyard Playhouse is closed for renovation, Shakespeare for the Masses has been performing in other venues. Last year, they enjoyed a relationship with The Pit Stop in Oak Bluffs. Because of the physical requirements of staging “King John” (see above: onstage battle scenes), they have moved to the Katharine Cornell, just down the street from the traditional home.

“King John” features Christopher Brophy, Brooke Hardman-Ditchfield, Christopher Roberts, Molly Purves, Rob Myers, Jill Macy, Xavier Powers, Leslie J. Stark, Chelsea McCarthy, Nicole Galland, and first-timer Samuel Graben-Hahn as John’s nephew and rival, Prince Arthur.

Shakespeare for the Masses presents “King John” 7 pm, Friday, Nov. 2 and Saturday, Nov. 3, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. The show runs about an hour. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.